GirlsCoding Founder Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin is one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes

Since 2012, Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin’s group, the Pearls Africa Foundation, has helped more than 400 disadvantaged girls ages 10 to 17 gain the technical skills and confidence they need to transform their lives through the foundation’s free GirlsCoding program.

Ajayi-Akinfolarin, who left her career to teach computer programming to girls, has now been included in CNN’s Top 10 Heroes—a television special featuring remarkable trailblazers who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and have truly changed the world using their knowledge and inspiration.

From Ajayi-Akinfolarin’s foundation, girls get training in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python and Scratch and visit tech companies to help them visualize themselves joining the industry. Many come from slums or other challenging circumstances, such as orphanages and correctional homes. In September, she was featured as Nigeria’s first CNN Hero.

Sharon Okpoe, who has lived her entire 17 years in Makoko — known as the world’s largest “floating slum” in Lagos, is one of Ajayi-Akinfolarin’s prodigies. Okpoe helped create an app called Makoko Fresh that enables fishermen like her father to sell seafood directly to customers. Now, according to CNN, she wants to become a software engineer and hopes to study computer science at Harvard.

Sharon Okpoe, with Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin, shows off her website to her father. Courtesy: CNN

“Most girls are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty,” Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin tells CNN. “Many of them are not thinking education, a plan for the future. Technology is a space that’s dominated by men. Why should we leave that to guys?  I believe girls need opportunities.

One thing I want my girls to hold onto is, regardless of where they are coming from, they can make it,” Ajayi-Akinfolarin added. “They are coders. They are thinkers. Their future is bright.”

This year’s top 10 CNN Heroes include Dr. Rob Gore, a doctor fighting to break the cycle of violence; Amanda Boxtel, a woman who helps the injured walk again; and Florence Philips a teacher who uses the power of writing to lift up and heal the hopeless.

Each of these heroes will receive a $10,000 cash prize. One of the 10 will be named “CNN Hero of the Year,” and receive an additional $100,000 for his or her cause. “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” airs live Sunday, 9 December, at 8 p.m. ET.