Inspirational stories about gender-inclusive making

Gabriela Agustini
Olabi, Brazil

Gabriela describes herself as a social entrepreneur, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Starting as a journalist working on digital departments, she became part of a collective space in Sao Paolo working on digital culture, where she got involved in a project of crowdsourcing legislation and community management. She learned a lot, but also wanted to work in a more organised structure having an “entrepreneurial mind-set”. So 8 years ago, in 2013, Gabriela started “Olabi”, a non-profit organisation.

“So if you are like all the time with this intention about who you want to include, I think everything changed.”

“Olabi is a space where people can learn, interact and explore new technology and build the things around it”,

a space that is about technology and the democratisation of technology and providing everyone with the tools to be a part of the discussion. For Gabriela, the tech and innovation scene is a reflection of inequalities in society.

When she was younger, Gabriela felt alienated because she was a girl. Years later Silvana, her Black female colleague and co-director of Olabi, made her realise the need to look at both gender and race together to understand the Brazilian context and respond to societal inequalities caused by Brazil’s slavery and colonial history in combination with its patriarchal system. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Olabi has been closed as a physical place, but the many projects related to Olabi aiming at “diversif[ing] the tech-innovation scene” continue. One of them – PretaLab – focuses on Black women in tech as they represent one of the most marginalized groups in Brazil. Another project ‘Aprenda com uma Avó’ (‘Learn with a grandmother’) aspires to teach the Brazilian elderly population about the use of media technology in media literacy.  In addition to Olabi, Gabriela is currently hosting an educational reality TV show “Conexão Maker” for participants who build prototypes with a social impact. She is also a speaker, teacher and event curator. –

“There is always like a side project related to diversification and democratisation of technology. “

From her own experience, Gabriela knows that it is hard to be “the only one person in the room” with a specific social position. However, being the “one woman” or “openly trans person” on the podium can be inspiring for others. At Olabi many women and diverse groups get involved through representation from the females working there, the topics addressed as well as the language and pictures used.  Intention can change everything especially when designing and building for everyone while reflecting on the cultural context of the “people that you are trying to connect”.

Message to her younger self:

“I would say “prepare yourself, you’re gonna work a lot”. I would say that I should not be afraid, because things can work, even when it looks super weird. A lot of people told me I was confused, and that I should focus on one path, that I had to learn how to choose things. I am glad that I didn’t listen to them much, but it made me super anxious and I felt bad. Nowadays, I am 38, I feel super fine, seeing that we can do a lot of things, and things are connected. The market has changed in a way that this is something valuable, even though in the beginning, it was super hard. It is hard, it is not an easy path, but it is that path that gives you the feeling that this is what you want to do and that’s so valuable.“

For further inspiration: