In the summer of 2011, TechWomen Mentee Sukaina Al Nasrawi passed the worldwide 2010 United Nations (UN) examination for recruitment to the professional category in web design/development. This is a highly competitive process within the UN Secretariat aimed at recruiting young, high-caliber professionals from around the globe. Sukaina, who is Iraqi and lives in Lebanon, ranked among the top candidates and was the only staff member at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) to pass the examination for 2010.
Sukaina, who holds a BSc and MSc in Computer Science from the American University of Beirut, started her career at ESCWA in 2003 as a researcher in the Information and Communication Technology Division (ICTD). She contributed to ESCWA’s publications, meetings, and regional projects, covering issues related to the Information and Knowledge Societies. Later on, she started providing technical training to concerned ministries and national statistics offices in ESCWA member countries in the context of ICT capacity building in measuring the Information Society. Shortly after the exam results were announced, the ESCWA Centre for Women (ECW) invited Sukaina to join their team. The Centre focuses on women’s economic, social and political empowerment and concentrates its efforts on sensitizing society to gender-related issues, monitoring developments and analyzing the situation of Arab women in the ESCWA region. Sukaina, who discovered a passion for issues related to women in technology during her TechWomen experience, quickly accepted the offer. She responded, “I would be honored to contribute to the empowerment of women in technology in the region.”
During her mentorship with Linda Schneider at Huawei Technologies, Sukaina worked on the Cloud Computing Team and played an active role in developing the initial design document of the project. Her experience, however, went far beyond technology. “The TechWomen program was not just about technology, professional skills and leadership development. It was also a hub for diversity, cultural learning and exchange of knowledge and experience,” Sukaina explains. Through her TechWomen experience, Sukaina met distinguished engineers such as her mentor, company presidents and CEOs, and board members of international bodies — and they were all women. “This reassured me that women can excel in the field of technology and can make a difference,” she states. In addition to meeting women leaders in the field of technology, Sukaina says that Techwomen also showed her the power of technology in regards to development and empowerment issues for girls and women. “Being exposed to this made me realize that not only am I interested in this topic, but I would also like to make a contribution in this field that would benefit the humanity as a whole and specifically the women and girls in my region.”
Sukaina now has a vision of how she wants to support women. “The women in our region do not have adequate support to venture into life as so many cultural and traditional concerns hinder their aspirations,” Sukaina says. She believes that technology can make a difference by enhancing their socio-economic status. “In this regard my hopes are high! I always believed that the very least we can do in our lives is to figure out what we hope for and try to attain it, not just admire it from distance.” Sukaina is in a great position to make her vision a reality. At ECW, she will be primarily responsible for activities, programs and projects tackling the empowerment and advancement of women through ICT in the region.
“For me, life is a series of experiences; each one of them makes us get the bigger picture,” Sukaina explains. TechWomen was a “lifetime experience,” that helped her “grow at different levels” and “view things in broader terms.” “It made me even analyze and think of social issues from a different perspective,” Sukaina explains. “As a technical person, I am not anymore solely interested in keeping abreast of new technologies but also in harnessing the use of technology for the socio-economic empowerment of Arab women.”
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