This post is slightly dated (originally posted on my Facebook account on October 11, 2016) but is still extremely relevant.
Last night I attended the celebration gala for Techwomen 2016. This is a program run by the US State Department and the Institute of International Education that brings 90 women from 19 countries across Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia to spend six weeks interning at various tech companies in Silicon Valley. Women also form teams based on their country and come up with a business plan to answer this basic question: "If you could solve any social issue in your country, what would it be? How would you do it?" Fatema Kothari served as an Impact Advisor for the Tunisian team this year. Her team looked at the various issues that Tunisians face everyday while using mass transit systems. Delays of up to 2 hours for school buses and metros impact 90% of the metropolitan Tunis population. They proposed an innovative crowd-sourced, real time transit information app to inform people, build a stronger community of engaged citizens, and lead Tunisia into the 21st century. They won!! Congratulations Team Tunisia, Fatema, and her fellow Impact Advisors!
On a much broader note, I was filled with immense joy and emotion watching these amazingly qualified and talented women come together to solve real issues that have the potential to change the lives of millions of people. They come from tough backgrounds, some have hard lives back at home, but with a tremendous drive and passion for making a difference in their country. Living in our part of the world, we tend to take for granted the ease of access to information and amenities that technology gives us. Technology can solve a lot of issues in underdeveloped and developing nations, and these women are determined to make the most of their Silicon Valley experience and make a big impact back home. Kudos to the US State Department for running such a fantastic program which unites people from different countries. In this day and age of negative political rhetoric where a certain section of the population wants to close borders, promote jingoism, and deport people who do not look like them or share their cultural background, last night was a breath of fresh air! We need more programs like this to understand each other better and come together as a society to solve problems. Sharing ideas and values makes us better humans.
On a parting note, I wish these terrific women all the best in their lives. I believe they will go back to their country with a renewed sense of optimism and determination. And if you really respect women, don't just say it. Show it. Because, who run the world? GIRLS!
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