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### Empowering Women in Technology: Recognizing a Social Entrepreneur

An innovative strategy aimed at boosting female involvement in emerging technology professions has garnered a De Montfort University (DMU) alumna international recognition for her social activism.

Poornima Meegammana, an alumna of DMU, is the mastermind behind the acclaimed Nextgen Girls in Technology (Nextgen) project, which has been commended by the United Nations (UN).


Recently, Poornima was lauded with the Study UK Alumni Award for Social Action in Sri Lanka. This accolade acknowledges exceptional alumni leveraging their UK education to drive positive change in their respective fields and communities.

Expressing her gratitude, Poornima stated, “Winning the UK Alumni Award in Social Action is a profound honor. It signifies global recognition of our endeavors at Nextgen to break down gender barriers in the tech industry through educational initiatives.

“My educational journey at the Academy of Design Colombo Grad School and DMU played a pivotal role in nurturing my entrepreneurial acumen and offering crucial mentorship and resources that fueled Nextgen’s progress.”

This recent award underscores Poornima’s unwavering commitment to advancing technology education, especially among young women and girls.

Her contributions have garnered multiple international accolades, including the UNESCO Prize for Girls and Women’s Education, the International Telecommunication Union WSIS Prizes, and the Internet Society 25 Under 25 Award.

In 2022, she was recognized with the prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 award for her groundbreaking contributions and was honored as Sri Lanka’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year by Women In Management.

Nextgen rolled out a novel program aimed at enhancing analytical, logical, and creative thinking skills through coding, Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics for schoolgirls nationwide.

Moreover, female university students received training in tech competencies such as advanced programming, IoT, machine learning, AI, and cybersecurity to bridge skill gaps and bolster employment prospects for women.

To date, Nextgen has empowered over 7,000 students and educators, fostering a new trend where girls are opting to pursue ICT studies and educators are incorporating Nextgen tools and content in schools.

Currently serving as the director of Youth Development at the Shilpa Sayura Foundation, Poornima spearheads the implementation of the Nextgen skills program, benefiting over 2,000 university students and 1,000 school students.

Reflecting on her journey, Poornima emphasized, “My experience at DMU was instrumental in shaping my path and contributing to Nextgen’s success.

“During my Master’s program, I honed my skills in devising innovative solutions for society’s most pressing challenges. This underscored the importance of design thinking in tech-driven initiatives.

“My coursework emphasized entrepreneurial pursuits, providing students with mentorship and resources. I engaged in workshops focusing on leadership, communication, project management, and collaborative teamwork.

“With this support, I seamlessly integrated my academic insights into Nextgen, catalyzing a radical transformation and expansion of the initiative.”

Poornima also serves as an animation lecturer at the Academy of Design Colombo and mentors participants in Epic Games’ Women Creator Programme. These roles, according to Poornima, epitomize “the transformative influence of a UK education.”

Posted on Monday 4 March 2024