Guest post by Nezha Larhrissi, 2013 TechWomen Emerging Leader from Morocco
While walking through Washington DC streets, discovering so many museums and memorials on that morning of Saturday November 2nd 2013 during the last week of the TechWomen program, fellow Moroccan ELs Salima, Zineb and I were realizing the incredible TechWomen experience we just had during the previous five weeks. It has been a rich month and running from event to event, from workshop to workshop, from site to site, from pitch to pitch didn’t allow us time to really acknowledge the tremendous opportunities that were rolled out in front of us like a red carpet. At that time we had an idea of how to support so many young Moroccan girls in our respective small cities (Ouazzane & Fez) in addition to so many other regions in Morocco where girls lack access to opportunities and even with university degrees, due to a low supporting environment tend to project themselves into marriage more than a bright career. We said to ourselves, why not just copy the idea of Techzeomen and build something similar but our scale?
That day, eSTEM Morocco was born.
eSTEM Morocco (environmental Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) is a local program that ambitions to give more confidence and tools to young Moroccan high school girls in order to encourage them develop a bright career in scientific and technological fields. Using mentoring and role modeling, it aims at changing how thousands of girls think about these man-dominated fields.
Unlike web-based mentoring/networking sites, our initiative focuses on one key principle; learning by doing. This was the reason we designed the program around four important values: Experience – Plan – Serve – Persevere. Experiencing and teaching is the best way to learn. Time is priceless; it is a precious resource to be used wisely. Giving and sharing so we can end up receiving more and finally persevering failure because it opens unsuspected horizons.
The program consisted of a week full of activities followed by remote coaching. During eSTEM week, each girl was paired with a professional mentor who embraced her and hosted her during three days for a shadowing exercise in her work place. Some even visited the girls at home in order to establish a better long-lasting relationship with the family. The mentees were then exposed to valuable insights during trainings and workshops. These included important discussions about knowing oneself, managing time, completing projects and presentation skills. Capacity building content touched also history of technology, body management and enterprise operations. After that, there were field activities planned such as scientific experiments and museum visits to the Telecom Museum and Modern Arts Museum.
The week couldn’t have been complete without inspiration. We discovered together the fine talent of three sisters all moved and inspired by math and science in their painting. We also had privilege to listen to the speech of an alpinist woman who already climbed four of the highest mountains in the world and is attempting the Everest next!
Luckily the week was coinciding with two major events; Startup Weekend Women first edition where mentees had chance to witness entrepreneurship in action. They all reported a very positive experience out of this interaction with so many talented young women entrepreneurs. The second was the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Marrakech. Two of the mentees accompanied their mentors there and had chance to simply meet great people like U.S. Second lady Jill Biden and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine M. Russell!!
We believe that the best way to learn is to teach. So after their immersion in the week experience, girls were asked to teach what they learned to at least five other girls that they needed to pre-select. This way we build slowly but surely a community of aware Moroccan girls.
Next, we are preparing for Technovation Challenge roll out in Morocco which happened January 18. It will be a first of its kind, as no Moroccan girl took part in the competition earlier. Pushing girls out of their comfort zone helps them learn and grow; this is what keeps motivating us.
My reflection back on this experience makes me realize that a single one week investment from our time had a huge impact in the girls’ lives. It was simply a matter of discipline in designing a rich program and rigor in its execution. It was all possible thanks to connections to generous people who need just to be asked and they jump straight away with you. So I deeply believe that every Moroccan active tech woman should try to internalize this idea: “As little as she can give, she can be sure that she might change the life of a young girl!
How you can be part of eSTEM Morocco
- Be active on Social Media
- Suggest technology sites to visit
- Host group visits to your work place
- Be a mentor and role model
- Provide a training as a coach
- Share info on international competitions targeted to high school girls
- Be a helping hand in execution
- Sponsor what you can from our expenses: (food, venues, goodies, prints, multimedia, transport…)