“Women have a critical role to play in strengthening global and national economies. Technology allows for borderless communication so that young Afghan girls can share their stories and provide for their families.” – Fereshteh Forough
Fereshteh Forough’s dream is to foster a generation of young Afghan girls as productive leaders in global technology. In a country where 85% of women are not educated, she aims to empower girls through digital literacy and bridge the gender gap in technology fields. While Afghanistan conjures images of the Taliban and war, she believes that women’s education and empowerment can be the new face of her beloved country. Fereshteh doesn’t just dream, she’s spent her life making this vision come alive. As a serial entrepreneur, Ted speaker and academic, Fereshteh is a rarity. She was also the first person to introduce bitcoin to Afghanistan. Fereshteh’s latest venture, Code to Inspire, teaches young girls coding while connecting them to the global digital workplace. Her Indiegogo campaign will invest 100% of donations to a new program center that will educate and create jobs for Afghan women.
This is the profile of a young girl from Herat, Afghanistan who is steadfast in decoding the potential for technology to empower women in developing nations.
What is Code to Inspire?
Code to Inspire is a non-profit organization that teaches Afghan girls coding and digital literacy in a safe, educational environment. Once trained, we connect young girls and women to the global job market and help them secure employment. Our services are free for students who can’t afford an education. Through our curriculum, we also foster teamwork and leadership skills to boost self-esteem and confidence.
What was your journey to Code to Inspire?
I was born in Iran and returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after the Taliban regime ended. I received my Master’s degree from Technical University of Berlin in Germany and taught as a professor in the Computer Science Faculty of Herat University. While teaching, I was managing director of Citadel Software Company, a women-led IT company that creates jobs for Afghan women. I’m also a Co-Founder and Board Member of Women’s Annex Foundation, which teaches girls blogging, video production and social media. WAF aims to help Afghan girls share their stories and compensates them with bitcoin. I started Code to Inspire shortly thereafter.
Why did you start Code to Inspire?
Code to Inspire aims to teach women how to code so they can either find employment in technology or start their own business. My goal is to create and nurture a generation of financially independent global digital citizens. I want to provide a generation of young Afghan girls the tools they need to succeed in the global technology landscape. I believe technology empowers women because it provides a safe environment for work and education. For example, it allows women to work from the safety of their homes. This is especially advantageous in war torn regions of the globe or where women aren’t widely accepted in the workplace. Technical literacy has many advantages for women’s empowerment through education.
What have been your biggest challenges?
There are stereotypes in Afghanistan against women’s education, employment and empowerment. Only 16% of Afghan women are employed. In 2014, only 20% of public university students were female. It can be challenging to work in an environment where women are not encouraged to receive the same education as their male counterparts. However, I believe Code to Inspire can help Afghanistan’s economy develop through the economic empowerment of young girls via fields in technology and entrepreneurship.
You were the first to introduce bitcoin to Afghanistan. Why bitcoin?
Bitcoin straddles currency and technology. There is powerful potential in bitcoin for women in developing countries because it connects people to a global economy quickly and at a low cost.
What is your greatest ambition?
My desire is to foster a generation of young, female, digitally literate leaders and entrepreneurs. Women have a critical role to play in strengthening global and national economies. Technology allows for borderless communication so that young Afghan girls can share their stories and provide for their families. I hope that, instead of war, women’s empowerment will be the new image of Afghanistan.
Who inspires you?
My Mom is my biggest inspiration. While we were living as refugees in Iran, we faced many challenges and difficulties. My Mom began making and selling cloth to finance the education of her eight children. She was always a great support. She is a strong woman and an inspiring leader. She taught me to follow my dreams no matter how difficult and unachievable they seem.