“Many young women dream of fame and fortune, of making the world a better place by harnessing the power of technology. For girls from chaotic regions of the Middle East and North Africa, leaning-in, in the words of Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, can be an even bigger reach. But a tech camp at American University is hoping to change the world, one girl at a time.” From interview by Bruce Leshan, WUSA9
He asks “Do you want to be the next Steve Jobs?” Ines Ayara, 16, from Tunisia answers, “Why not?” She is just one of two dozen amazing teens taking part in the State Department’s TechGirls initiative, administered by Legacy International. The girls from the Mid-East and North Africa are soaking up a three week summer camp in the U.S. designed to empower them with technology and leadership skills they can go back and share with more girls at home.
“They’re making things happen, and they’re taking what they’ve learned and transferring those tech skills and leadership skills,” said Michele Christle with TechGirls, Legacy International.
The TechGirls are getting used to the sounds of keys clicking, camera shutters closing, and sound bites playing over and over again in iD Tech Camp atAmerican University. During the week they spend at iD Tech Camps, each TechGirl takes a class in either java coding, film production, or web design and digital photography. This is the second year that iD Tech camp, a national weeklong summer tech camp for beginning to advanced students, has partnered with TechGirls.
On Tuesday, iD Tech Camp digital photography instructor Melanie Asherman (aka “Tree Frog”) led the girls in her class on a photography expedition across the beautifully landscaped American University campus. She showed the girls how to use the different settings on their cameras before sending them off to take portraits of each other and vibrant shots of the flowers gracing the campus. The girls scattered about the quad and directed each other to “Smile!” before bringing the camera to their faces.
Fifteen-year-old Shahdan Abd El Kareem from Egypt, loves the class. “I like that I have created something and that I can say that it is mine,” she explained.
For some girls, the content of their tech classes is completely new to them, whereas others have previous experience. While Kenza Arab (Algeria) and Nadia Houerbi (Tunisa) coded before, they agreed that their iD Tech Java Coding class was infinitely more enjoyable.
“I didn’t think that coding could be so much fun,” Nadia exclaimed after the first day. “Today we programmed a calculator and our teacher showed us slides from his college class.”
iD Tech Camp instructors note that the TechGirls fly through curriculum designed to last a week in just a day and a half. Working with the TechGirls is a rewarding experience for instructors in that it challenges them to stay on their toes and continue to create material for the TechGirls to soak up and apply.
The TechGirls will take the technical training they get during camp and use it in designing and implementing the community-based project they’ll do when they return to their home countries. Project will range from creating initiatives similar to Humans of New York to creating websites designed to get females more involved in engineering to using video to create public service videos. Each project targets a need the TechGirls have identified in the communities from which they come.
Participant Iméne Khodja (Algeria) pointed out that they are not in on this alone—even though they are learning different skills, the TechGirls can join together to create projects that have positive effects on their communities. Everything that the girls learn this week—photography, web design, coding, and filmmaking are just the beginning steps of the TechGirls’ journeys to innovation. More @ TechGirls on Tumblr. While you are staying tuned to hear more about the projects the girls created, check out this short video from WUSA-9 who came by to see the girls at camp.
This U. S. Department of State initiative is making a global impact, the first 50 girls who’ve zipped through TechGirls have already reached out and touched 2,000 more people in their home countries. See videos below as TechGirl Alumni reflect on their experience.