Afghan women tackle stereotypes through IT

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Afghan girls learn to use computers. (Photo Credit: Todd Huffman via Wikipedia Commons)

In Afghanistan, sisters Roya and Elaha Mahboob are breaking through barriers by teaching teenage girls computer skills, per DW.com.

“IT is the most important field right now,” said Elaha Mahboob. “We want to empower women through IT, because it will be very useful for them and their futures.”

Girls at Goharshad Begum High School in the city of Herat sit around computers provided by the Digital Citizen Fund (DCF), founded by the Mahboob sisters and Italian businessman Francesco Rulli.

The girls, who just a few months ago didn’t know how to turn on a computer, have learned coding, how to use social media and some are writing blogs.

“We learned film programs, Gmail, Twitter and Viber,” said teenager Hilai. “It developed our knowledge and awareness of technology.”

Since DCF was founded in 2012, they have established 13 computer centers in Herat and Kabul. In a country where literacy rates for women hover around 18 percent, DCF has given more than 55,000 female students internet access.

DCF plans to further the education of another 5,000 female students, teaching them in financial and digital literacy, and coding.

“They really love it because they can connect, talk with their friends, share their blogs and ideas,” says Mahboob. “After the training we provided, we saw a change in their minds and interest in their computers … Some of them also decided to study in this field … They became more connected to other worlds.”

Roya and Elaha Mahboob studied computer science at Herat University and co-founded Afghan Citadel Software, an IT consulting firm. The company, which counts NATO and Afghan government ministries among its clients, employs mostly women.

The Mahboob sisters and those working in the program have received threats of violence, prompting at least one teacher to stop teaching. They are continuing to work to ease the fears that parents and local leaders have about introducing girls to computers.

“We are just talking to them to convince them that it is not something bad, but it is just to help their daughters, to enhance their knowledge and also it could be a financial help,” says Mahboob. And this tack appears to be working. Now, “they mostly trust us and their daughters.”