This is the story of 22-year old Fatima Azam*, a fourth-year Software Engineering student at Kabul University! Let’s hear how she got inspired to create a mobile app aiming to help her fellow citizens.
“In 2015, my father did the Haj,” she said, referring to the religious pilgrimage that millions of devout Muslims make to Mecca each year. When he returned from the trip, I asked him if he had encountered any problems. He had, as when he arrived in Mecca, he was left alone by the Haj guide! Unable to speak the local language, he did not feel comfortable to go outside and visit places.
Several months after this incident, Fatima was accepted at a prestigious two-month technology training program in Kabul, conducted by TechNation, a Kabul-based technology company, and sponsored by UNESCO, the educational and cultural arm of the United Nations. The course was about developing innovative applications for mobile devices. Fatima saw an opportunity in this—she put forth her nascent coding skills to work and developed a mobile app that would help people like her father as a virtual language guide while traveling to other countries. Her “prototype” moved a step closer to realization when she was offered a one-year internship at TechNation and were given an opportunity to work closely with and learn from a team of experienced software developers.
However, Fatima had yet another hurdle to overcome before her mobile application could come to fruition—her father—the very person who had inspired her to build it. He was worried about her working with men he did not know, and also concerned that she would face harassment as a woman while commuting to the office. After much discussion, and on the condition that she returns home by 5:00 pm every day, Fatima’s father conceded.
Like Fatima, many Afghan women see the promise of a brighter future for them and their country through innovation and creativity. They hope to use their knowledge and skills to develop new apps and manage them; they hope to contribute to the people of Afghanistan with their abilities.
Fatima’s one-year internship opportunity at TechNation in Kabul was facilitated by the Promote: Women in the Economy (WIE) program that enables the educated Afghan women to participate in the mainstream economy and advance their careers. Promote-WIE helps potential Afghan women-owned businesses to secure employment, generate higher incomes and attain sustainability.
*Name changed for security reasons