Winifred Ereyi is a Nigerian who studied in the UK and now lives in the USA. She is the CEO/Founder of the ThinkSTEM Foundation (a subsidiary of eWirecommunications), the Women In Technology International Charlotte Network director, and the Society of Women Engineers Charlotte-Metrolina Outreach chair. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of Lagos, Nigeria and a Master of Science in Telecommunication and Information Systems from the University of Essex, UK. She is a certified John Maxwell Leadership Trainer and provides speaking, coaching, mentoring and leadership training services. Furthermore, she coaches and mentors early and mid-career tech professionals and provides Leadership training to Organizations.
Beginnings and Getting to Peace
Her father was a lawyer and an avid Rotarian. As a lawyer, he was passionate about being a catalyst for change in Nigeria. His regular visits to the local Rotary club left a positive impression on Winifred. It played a significant part in a chance encounter she had with a Rotarian in the sauna of a YMCA which put her on the peacebuilding trajectory. At that time, she had recently escaped from an abusive marriage and was going through a heavily contested divorce. She was at a low point in her life where she felt she had no voice in the courtroom. The Brace YMCA was Winifred’s safe place from the injustice that was being played out in the courtroom.
On one of her regular visits, she met a Rotarian who invited her to her club: Mecklenburg South Rotary. Winifred accepted the invitation and the first visit changed her life. She felt like she had come home. It was 2016 and she had been in litigation for four years. She was mentally and physically exhausted. Her regular visits to the Rotary meetings were reminiscent of her past when she visited these meetings with her father who wanted to pass down his values to her. Soon after, she found out about MBBI webinars and began to understand that Peace Education was an academic discipline. It was very welcome news and she wanted to know more so she joined MBBI and started to learn about Peace Education through the MBBI webinars. She recently participated in the planning of the recent MBBI Peace Congress in Bali, Indonesia and attended the conference where she met some awesome mediators.
Mentoring Girls and Promoting Peace Education in High Schools
Winifred understood the importance of conflict analysis and conflict resolution and the benefits it would have if high school students learned these skills. In 2016, She met a team of NewGen Peacebuilders (NGP) alumni and their director of operations, Elizabeth Peacock during the Rotary D7680 annual Duck race. They gave her details about the NGP education program for high school students. She encouraged her daughter to apply for the program. NGP is a leadership development program for students ages 18-24 who participate in a 12 weeks project that addresses different areas of conflict in the community. These projects are mentor directed and student-led. As part of the NGP program, her daughter did an amazing sustainable project to bring reconciliation between the police and a community that had suffered recent police brutality. Due to the success of the project, Winifred decided to become a mentor in the program. The NGP program is sponsored by Rotary.
As the Women in Technology International (WITI), Charlotte Network director Winifred is involved in organizing events to empower female tech professionals (and their male allies) in order to address the challenges women face in a male-dominated world. She serves this community with the conflict analysis and resolution knowledge she has gained from MBBI webinars and certification courses.
Through her involvement with MBBI, she now understands that you can teach people who are traumatized. “You can give them skills that will not only help and benefit them but will benefit the community…I really liked that thought that the survivors of trauma can themselves become peacebuilders. I was amazed, so not only do they recover, they can now turn their pain into passion and build their community and prevent further conflict,” she continued.
“MBBI was putting the people who were at the heart of conflict at the center of the resolution. And you can give them space to air their views and respect their human dignity and worth. So you can get them to move from a place of pain, from a place of trauma to a place of triumph, and you can do that through a structured process that can be replicated. This is powerful and transformative.” MBBI is empowering survivors with the skills needed to transcend their pain. Winifred is currently working on the MBBI IPTI West Africa project to increase the Peacebuilding capacity of Women Peacebuilder in five West African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Republic of Bénin, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The mission of the ThinkSTEM Foundation is to increase the number of girls pursuing and thriving in STEM careers by connecting girls with an inspiring community and accessible resources that can help them conquer common barriers to entry, retention, and promotion. Their motto is strong girls, strong minds and a strong world.
To this end, Winifred collaborates with Olympic high school’s T-Rex 4935 FIRST Robotics. It is the first Robotics team in Charlotte, North Carolina, to mentor students who use project-based learning to build robots. These robots participate in local, state and national competitions. T-Rex 4935 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire students to pursue STEM careers. She is also a mentor at a Rotary-sponsored program called Mentoring for Medicine, which focuses on providing mentoring services to students who want to pursue Medicine. She is also a mentor at the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy (RYLA) Seminar for Tomorrows Leaders organized by District 7680.
Winifred is also promoting and encouraging girls to pursue STEM careers in Nigeria. ThinkSTEM Foundation recently sponsored the Girls STEAM Ahead powered by the Society of Women Engineers in Lagos, Nigeria. Since the beginning of the year, they have reached out to approximately 1000 students with the message that they can break free from the strictures of society to pursue STEM careers. Winifred also advocates with National organizations at Capitol Hill to promote policies that will ensure that women and girls have equal access to STEM Education and protection from Sexual Harassment and domestic violence.
Article by Kylea Shropshire, MBBI Writer