This prestigious award, now in its fifth year, recognises young women for being innovative and inspiring in the technology sector. Nitasha, as a South African Youth Ambassador for Women in Tech, has been championing the role of women in technology and STEM.
“When Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum announced my name, it took a few seconds to register. My mom said, ‘Tasha, you need to go now, they’re calling your name.’ I walked to the stage and thought of the verse my pastor always prayed over me, from Proverbs 18:16, ‘Your gift will make room for you and bring you before great men,'” Pillay was quoted in an article by News24.
Natasha is currently studying towards her B Commerce honours in information systems and technology at the University of KZN and is also president and co-founder of Tech Society UKZN, which was established to promote learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Since her appointment as Women in Tech South Africa Youth Ambassador, Pillay’s aim has been to champion the role of women in technology.
“I want to inspire girls and women across the board to bridge the gap in the tech sector,” she said. “For me technology is problem solving.”
How it All Started
Pillay’s interest in technology started in primary school when she took part in a robotics competition. She first wanted to study law after being a top achiever in high school. When that did not pan out, she chose to do a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
She said she struggled to fit in at university in her first year, coming from a very sheltered background and initially failed two subjects. Her experience during her first year made her want to empower future first year students with the necessary tools to succeed. This led to her joining a society at UKZN involved with entrepreneurship which also promotes and uplifts communities.
She started working on programmes dealing with the education sector. This was globally recognised and chosen one of the top-10 global winners in the Ford Fund challenge, a global grant competition empowering college students to envision and lead change in their communities. Nitasha created programmes to empower young children and also headed a project called My DigiTutor.
Pillay and her UKZN team took second place in the Innovate Durban Youth Innovation Challenge. This led to her being nominated for the Women in Tech Africa Awards this year, where she won the Women in Tech Africa Aspiring Teen Award.
This humble STEM innovator who had never even travelled abroad was still doubtful as to whether she would be able attend the global awards ceremony in Dubai due to a lack of funding. Her church held fundraisers for her and her mother took out a loan in order to accompany her.
“I believe that it’s only God that made this possible. Yes, I know I put in the hard work and the long hours, but I also know without a doubt that this is possible because of God. I’m an Indian girl from Chatsworth and seeing myself on that stage showed me what is possible. Representation matters. I’m hoping that others who will come after me do even better than me,” Pillay was quoted.
There is no denying that this young woman is poised to lead and with her talents are going to make a difference across the STEM industry for many other girls with big dreams.