While the world develops ever faster in technology and innovation, not all are a part of this great revolution. Even with the great advances we have made today, there are still women and girls in conservative countries who do not even know of the outside world, let alone have access to education or the prosperity that it can bring. We have a vision for the future; one that will include these women and girls in the success and opportunities that technology and education can bring to everyone. It is a vision that requires hard work, dedication, and courage. It is not for the weak or faint of heart, but the future is brighter today for the advances made towards this goal.
One of the technology pioneers who has captured our vision is Craig Newmark. Because of his generous contributions and Craigslist Charitable Fund, the work of the Digital Citizen Fund has blossomed and continued. His donations have allowed us to build a school IT lave in Kabul, Afghanistan, where children and women can learn about technology and embrace their new-found freedom by exploring the opportunities that digital citizenship affords. As a leader in the technology sphere of influence, his support of our work has been an invaluable asset. His support for the last few years has opened doors for so many women to greatly advance their dreams. Today we have a student named Farzaneh who is only 16 years old and from a very poor family. Through training and technology and her own dreams and hard work, she now manages 25 people working for her in a handcraft business.
Her dream is to deliver her beautiful, handcrafted bags by selling them online. The support of Mr. Newmark and other like him for the last few years have made stories like Farzaneh’s possible.
The Neuberger Berman Foundation has also greatly supported the work of our financial literacy program. This program teaches women to handle money and learn to support themselves. For many, this is a dream come true. Where once a woman’s only possible future was to marry and stay at home, now women and girls are finding the opportunities to dream bigger dreams and reach for the stars in whatever they believe they can do. Their personal work ethic drives them to succeed, but education and technology are the keys to unlocking their futures.
Because of the support of Mr. Newmark and all of our amazing donors, we have enrolled more than 2,000 female students in classes on ICT, social media, coding and financial literacy. This is an amazing start, but we have no intention of stopping here. We will continue to press forward, to reach higher, to allow more and more women to find a voice and an outlet for their talents through technology.
Stories of past and current successes are always an encouragement to those who may be unsure of how to pursue their dreams, or who may be afraid to take the step of courage and faith and branch out. Trailblazers must have great courage, and the knowledge of those who have gone before them can help lift up their hands and strengthen their resolve.
One of our students started to make ice cream and sell it, regardless of her father’s disapproval of the idea. Because of her success, she convinced him of the potential of her goals and is now delivering the ice cream to all the restaurants in Herat. Seeing the ingenuity and abilities of his daughter, her father sold his taxi to join her as a business partner.
25 of our advance students have started their own businesses because of the efforts of the Digital Citizen Fund and the incredible donors with which we have been blessed. These hardworking young women are often the first women ever in their family’s history to be educated and change their lives through technology.
Soon we will host a conference in Afghanistan where these advanced students will pitch and showcase their startup business plan and compete. So much has been gained already but this is only the beginning of a brighter future for all women and man.