Breaking down gender barriers in Afghanistan
If you think all women in Afghanistan wear the infamous blue burqa and the country has no progress toward gender equality- well you better think again! Founded in 2015 Code to Inspire is a coding school for women and one of many examples of Afghan women rising and taking control over their lives.
Several years of Taliban control have left Afghanistan with a conservative mindset. Like the idea that women shouldn’t be allowed to study or work but instead dedicate their lives to household chores.
But this is about to change…
In 2015 Code to Inspire (CTi) started changing people’s expectations of Afghan women. It is an award-winning first all-girls coding school based in Herat and founded by Fereshteh Forough. Her mission is to use education to provide Afghan women with leverage in their fight for social, political, and economic equality.
A dream come true
For as long as she can remember 21 year old Khatereh Mohammadi has loved technology and computers. In 2015 when she started studying coding at CTi it was a dream come true.
“CTi offers the best environment and opportunity to game developers and programmers. There are not many places in Afghanistan for women to study. The goal is to show the capabilities of the Afghan women to the world. Afghan women can do anything they want.” says Khatereh Mohammadi.
CTi build skills for women to compete in the global tech market and at the same time empowering them financially and socially. Basically they are basically coding their way to gender equality.
85 percent of women in Afghanistan have received no formal education
Today Khatereh Mohammadi has graduated from CTi with a degree in computer science and works in an IT in a company as well as teaching at the University.
The Afghan Puzzle
Back in 2015 there were only 25 students at CTi. But today they are 90 students studying coding, building web sites, computer games and apps. With the computer as the tool these women brakes down the traditional roles for women in Afghanistan.
Especially the apps and games have been done with a great success.
Khatereh Mohammadi has developed a game called “Afghan Geo”. It is like a puzzle and shows all the Afghan provinces on a map. The player must put the pieces together and at the same time answer questions regarding each province.
With the computer as the tool women take down the traditional roles for women in Afghanistan
“It is an educational application made specially to introduce Afghanistan to children. Presently, very limited numbers of students have information about all provinces and districts of Afghanistan. It is important to know about your own country. The game has 34 levels – or pieces- because there are 34 provinces in Afghanistan. Each level introduces the province and the district. To win the player must find the correct placement of province and district on the map” says Khatereh Mohammadi.
The Fight against opium
One of the most successful games however that Khatereh Mohammadi has made is the “The Fight against Opium”. It is a story of an Afghan soldier on a mission to destroy opium fields. He fights smugglers and drug lords and teaches the local farmers the benefit in switching to cultivating saffron, the world’s most expensive spice.
Afghanistan is the world’s largest supplier of opium and produces more than any other country in the world. The Taliban is deeply dependent on the opium economy. They have been charging taxes and protection money from opium farmers and smugglers for years.
Khatereh Mohammadi hopes that her game can create greater awareness about Afghanistan’s drug problems and that one day saffron fields have replaced opium poppies.
Afghanistan is the world’s largest supplier of opium
“It seems that everybody know that Afghanistan is the world’s largest source of opium but few are aware of that we also grow saffron”, says Khatereh Mohammadi.
Code to Inspire
Since 2015 CTI has given more than 150 Afghan women the skills and confidence to code and generate work opportunities for themselves. The school aim to give these young women the latest skills in Web Development, Game Development, Mobile Application Development and Graphic Design.
I am grateful from my family to support me in this part of my life and also for Fereshta Forough for making this opportunity
As role models for other young Afghan women, CTI graduates demonstrate that women are capable of adding value to their communities far beyond simple housework.
85 percent of women in Afghanistan have received no formal education. Forough started the school with the aim of empowering women in Afghanistan to be self-reliant and to increase their chances of finding employment. The goal is to create job opportunities for women so they can make their own money and become more independent
“I am grateful from my family to support me in this part of my life and also for Fereshta Forough for making this opportunity, she is always very supportive in what we do.” says Khatereh Mohammadi.
Fereshteh Forough was born as an Afghan refugee in Iran. When she and her family returned to Afghanistan in 2002 she began to study computer science at the University of Herat. They were 70 in the team, of which 10 were girls, all dressed in burka or chador – except Forough.
She noticed how the female students sat silent in the back row and did not dare to raise their voice
Forough did very well in school and received a scholarship to the University of Berlin. After her graduation she returned to Herat as a lecturer at the university. Once again she noticed how the female students sat silent in the back row and did not dare to raise their voice and ask questions during class.
That made her to decide to start a school for young girls and women. The goal was to strengthen their confidence and give them some surroundings where they dared to be creative and possibility to unfold.
Breaking down gender barriers
While the government is supporting initiatives like CTI, it is still considered improper in Afghan society for women to work alongside men. In the ultra-conservative Herat province there has been opposition to Fereshteh Forough and her school. The Taliban has limited influence in the region, but there are many who have “Taliban mentality” and believe the school will turn the girls against Afghan culture and tradition.
“We encourage others to encourage girls. In Afghanistan many parents don’t let their girls go to school because it is not safe. Also some don’t let their girls go to school because they don’t know the benefits of knowledge. But now in the 21st century it is better than before. Today most parents let their children go to school.” says Khatereh Mohammadi.
The Taliban has limited influence in the region, but there are many who have “Taliban mentality”
Code to Inspire is breaking down gender barriers and gives students tools to change their lives. The ultimate goal is to create job opportunities for women to earn their own money and become more independent.
Opening the doors
It is extremely difficult for women to find jobs in Afghanistan. In many families it is still culturally unacceptable for women to be working. But as computer programmers women can work from home and still make money for the family.
CTI empower girls online without being worried of physical and geographical distances
Forough hopes that by seeing women become financially independent, the men in the family will begin to change their conservative perspectives and come to realize that women can contribute to household income.
CTI empower girls online without being worried of physical and geographical distances. The students are able to design websites and develop apps for clients across the world giving them the opportunity to earn much more than local wages in Afghanistan.
Google RISE Award
In 2016 CTi received the Google RISE Award for nonprofits promoting tech education.
With more initiatives like CTI, Afghanistan’s tech gender gap can be closed, perceptions about women’s education and employment can be changed, and more women can become financially independent.
All pictures are with the curtesey of Khatereh Mohammadi
Code to Inspire: https://www.codetoinspire.org/team/
Link to the Afghan Geo Game:
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