Impact Stories from Education Diplomacy/Mentoring Policy Area
Fellows share advice for girls in STEM at UNDP event
Fellow(s): Maral Hudaybergenova, Shodiyabegim Bakhtiyorzoda, Mahinakhon Suleymanova
Country: Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Cohort: 2016, 2017, 2018
Last month, fellows Maral Hudaybergenova (Turkmenistan, 2018), Shodiyabegim Bakhtiyorzoda (Uzbekistan, 2016) and Mahinakhon Suleymanova (Tajikistan, 2017) were featured speakers at a webinar meant to engage and inspire girls interested in tech throughout Central Asia. The event was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme as well as STEM4ALL, a non-profit that offers STEM education to K-12 students.
During the session, the fellows were joined by more than 150 women and girls from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The webinar kicked-off with a group discussion on how women and girls are overcoming personal and professional obstacles and succeeding in STEM fields: “I focused on the fact that achieving gender equality requires the engagement of not only women but also men, as it’s everyone’s responsibility,” said Maral. “It’s not about men versus women, it’s all about giving everyone a fair opportunity.” After, the group moved to breakout rooms that were divided by field of interest, where the fellows spoke about both job opportunities as well as the gender barriers and challenges within tech sectors. The event concluded with the panelists sharing free resources for girls and women in STEM. “All of us were trying to inspire girls to not be afraid of pursuing their dream job in spite of stereotypes,” said Maral. “And the most impactful thing for me was the fact that three of five speakers were TechWomen fellows.”
Report Date...: 5/3/21
Fellow’s students present projects to King and Queen of Jordan
Fellow(s): Ala’a Agha Karss
In 2019, founder of Superiors Tech Hub and 2017 fellow Ala’a Agha Karss
collaborated with Princess Taghrid Institute for Development and Training
to design an immersive tech and business training for rural youth in
Jordan. For two months, Alaa’s project, “Productive Youth,” trained its 35
participants in design thinking, digital marketing, storytelling and more,
guiding them on how to create businesses for local and handmade
Last month, Princess Taghrid Institute organized an exhibition to
showcase the students’ projects and products to King Abdullah II bin Al-
Hussein and Queen Rania Al-Abdullah. There, the King and Queen walked
through the exhibit, speaking to Alaa’s students about their training and
seeing their handicrafts and products on display. “I personally witnessed a
long journey for the students, a journey of self-development and creating
their products with unmatched determination,” said Ala’a.
Report Date...: 5/3/21
Fellow’s project AfChix expands reach with USAID funding
Fellow(s): Houda Chakiri
2012 fellow Houda Chakiri is a board member and project coordinator for AfChix, an initiative that addresses the digital gender divide through digital skills trainings, supporting women-led enterprises and advocating for digital inclusion. The initiative – already named a round one winner in 2018 – was recently named a round three winner of the Women Connect Challenge, a USAID-funded challenge that solicits global solutions that transform the ways women access and use technology.
Round three of the challenge, which focused on scale, replicability and private sector partnerships supporting emerging technologies, awarded four initiatives that are advancing women’s digital development. The AfChix project, “Scaling up Women-Led Community Networks for Women’s Prosperity,” will work with community networks in Kenya, Morocco, Namibia and Senegal to harness the power of digital technologies, partnerships and collaborations for the prosperity of women. “We will empower underserved women communities to use technology to improve their livelihoods and small businesses,” said Houda, who will work as Morocco’s project coordinator to identify and customize digital skills and literacy training programs for women. The digital training will be delivered via MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) in order to reach the most women in Africa, and will focus on using smartphones, digital marketing, working with online customers and more. “We hope to reach one million women aged 18 and above to strengthen their participation in the digital society,” says Houda.
Report Date...: 4/26/21
Fellow(s): Gisele Beatrice Sonfack
2016 fellow Gisele Beatrice Sonfack was recently named a recipient of the 2021 Schlumberger Faculty for the Future Fellowship, a program that supports women from developing countries to pursue advanced graduate degrees in STEM fields at leading universities abroad. Gisele is a researcher, assistant professor and founder of WENTECH, an initiative that empowers young girls ages 13 to 18 with STEM skills through workshops, conferences and events.
Gisele has begun two years of postdoctoral research at France’s Université d’Orléans, studying at its engineering facility, Polytech Orléans. There, she will work on developing an intelligent electricity grid that can identify the consumer use on an electrical network in order to provide optimal management to both energy suppliers and consumers. Gisele reflected on her accomplishment in a recent post, saying, “This is an opportunity to tell all those who follow me that anything is possible for those who have the will and the commitment. Believe in ourselves.”
Report Date...: 4/26/21
Fellow wins first place at Ideathon for social impact
Fellow(s): Menna Ayad
This week, 2019 fellow Menna Ayad was named first place winner at Fekretek, a competition and platform for Egyptian women with business ideas that create impact and address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Launched this year, the competition is sponsored by Vodafone Egypt in partnership with the National Council for Women, UN Women and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
Menna, a network consulting engineer at Cisco, created Fosha, a mobile app that allows its users – both Egyptians and tourists – to discover Egypt in just a few clicks by accessing local tours, trips and activities. “Egypt relies heavily on tourism, and it got affected by the pandemic,” said Menna. “It is a critical time to introduce Fosha.” After Menna’s TechWomen mentorship at Twitter, she was inspired to find a way to use her background in computer science and app development. “At university, I fell in love with how a mobile app can reach millions of people and make their lives easier. During my mentorship at Twitter, I relived that passion again. It triggered my goal of creating a mobile app that can ease someone’s life.” Through Fosha, Menna hopes to digitally transform the tourism sector in Egypt and create a digital channel for service providers to market their offerings. As first place winner, she received a cash prize to kickstart her app, as well as access to entrepreneurship, marketing and finance training from the National Council for Women and UN Women.
Report Date...: 4/19/21
Fellow recognized for bringing free courses to Kyrgyz students
Fellow(s): Gulzire Minbaeva
After visiting Khan Academy HQ during TechWomen 2018, fellow Gulzire Minbaeva maintained her connection with the academy’s internal communications officer, becoming an official language advocate for the academy when she returned home to Kyrgyzstan. Since then, Gulzire and her team of project managers, proofreaders, methodologists and over 200 volunteers have worked to translate Khan Academy courses, empowering students to reach their full potential by providing them with effective learning opportunities.
Gulzire, now the official representative of Khan Academy in Kyrgyzstan, was featured in an article this month from Limon.Kg, where she was interviewed about her work as an education advocate. “There is an acute shortage of resources in the Kyrgyz language in our country,” she said. “This became especially noticeable during the pandemic, when everyone switched to online learning.” Gulzire and her team have worked to translate 250 video courses to Kyrgyz, available for free to students throughout Kyrgyzstan. By September, she hopes to have published 2,000. “I want to revolutionize the education system of Kyrgyzstan,” she said.
Report Date...: 4/19/21
TechWomen concludes and Emerging Leaders become fellows
Fellow(s): 2020-2021 TechWomen Fellows
Country: Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United States, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe
This week, 106 Emerging Leaders offically became fellows, closing out the 2020-2021 TechWomen program in an event that convened State Department representatives, mentors, fellows and Emerging leaders to celebrate the conclusion of TechWomen’s first-ever virtual program.
In addition to sharing their own experiences, Emerging Leaders had the opportunity to hear encouragement and inspiration from Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Matthew Lussenhop, as well as Professional Mentors, Facilitators, Impact Coaches, Peer Advisors and fellows who shared their advice, wisdom and congratulations on such an enormous achievement. TechWomen director Katie Zee addressed the new fellows, saying “You all came together with dreams at the beginning of this journey. I hope your dreams are now bigger. I hope your resolve is stronger. And I hope you are better equipped than ever to reach new heights in your journeys. You are supported by all of us — this powerful and uplifting TechWomen community — to take that next step.”
Report Date...: 4/12/21
Fellow and mentor collaborate to support Lebanon’s students
Fellow(s): Sabine Kai and Rebecca Biswas (mentor)
Country: Lebanon, United States
Since TechWomen 2014, fellow Sabine Kai and her Professional Mentor Rebecca Biswas have kept in close touch, regularly talking on the phone, sharing updates and finding new opportunities for collaboration. In 2019, with the sponsorship of her company Juniper Networks, Rebecca facilitated the donation of 18 laptops to a local NGO that Sabine was supporting through Kids Genius, her organization that spreads maker culture to young students.
After the 2020 Beirut explosion, many of the schools, NGO’s and students in Sabine’s Kids Genius network were left without computers, internet connections and spaces to continue their learning. Shortly after the blast, Sabine decided to offer one of her locations, The Makers Hub, to public school teachers whose schools were damaged by the blast, supplying free space and free internet to those who had lost theirs at home. Sabine then contacted Rebecca and Juniper Networks, who signed on to donate 35 laptops to public school students who could not afford one. Sabine also lent some of the laptops to graduates of her Young Makers at American Corners program, helping them continue their STEM education. One laptop was loaned to a young girl who, after joining Sabine’s classes, developed a passion for computer science. “I offered her a laptop from Juniper for two years, on the condition that she does freelance jobs in coding and part-time work to save for a laptop for herself,” said Sabine.
Report Date...: 4/12/21
TechWomen announces virtual delegations
Fellow(s): TechWomen announces virtual delegations
Country: Cameroon, Palestinian Territories
Each year the TechWomen program has the opportunity to continue knowledge-sharing and deepen exchange through delegation trips, traveling to two TechWomen program countries to strengthen an international network of women in STEM fields, inspire women and girls and create exchange between the United States and TechWomen program countries.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the TechWomen community has shown that connection, professional development and mentorship can thrive in a virtual setting. IIE is excited to facilitate additional learning and exchange through its first-ever virtual delegations to the Palestinian Territories and Cameroon, two regions IIE has not had the opportunity to visit. In May, a small group of TechWomen mentors will participate in high-impact fellow-led events in the Palestinian Territories including a STEM learning event and a workshop with women entrepreneurs. In June, mentors will join Cameroonian fellows in their interactive and engaging events centered on robotics with young students and small group career-sharing sessions with university students.
Report Date...: 4/5/21
In keynote fellow speaks about advancing women in tech
Fellow(s): Houda Chihi
This week, 2019 fellow Houda Chihi was invited as a keynote speaker for an event on women in technology, presenting on gender equality, her career in engineering and the importance of mentorship. The virtual event was hosted by BINUS University in Indonesia in partnership with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest technical professional organization.
Houda is a chief engineer at Tunisie Telecom, Tunisia’s leading telecom operator. In her talk to PhD students at the university, Houda spoke about the challenges she has faced in a male-dominated industry as well as her mission to inspire women to believe in their potential, seek out mentorship and contribute to closing the gender gap in technology fields. Houda encouraged the students to challenge themselves when seeking a mentor who can help advance their careers: “Pick a mentor who will drive you to be successful,” she said. Houda also presented on professional development opportunities for women in STEM, including the TechWomen program. She shared about her professional mentorship at Qualcomm, speaking about its importance in setting her up for future career success. “You can overcome your obstacles through education, participation in training and networking,” Houda reminded the group. “When you take risks, amazing things happen.”
Report Date...: 4/5/21