What would the world look like if girls were encouraged to be dreamers, tinkerers and makers? What if female students were truly supported, mentored and nurtured? What if women the world over had the same educational and professional opportunities as men?
Through WeTech, we not only envision this world—we work to actively build it.
In 2013, IIE and its consortium of private sector and NGO partners made a real commitment to creating an employee pipeline of girls and women into the technology sector. Launched as a commitment to action at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, the Women Enhancing Technology program (WeTech) is a set of innovative activities that provides training and builds networks for girls and women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) across the world. For the past three years, WeTech has opened up new life possibilities for young females, preparing them for and connecting them to STEM opportunities. The work is ongoing. But three years in, we pause to take stock of the tremendous impact WeTech has made thus far.
This August, 36 young women pursuing undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from universities across India and China completed the first year of the WeTech Qualcomm Global Scholars Program, an exciting new initiative made possible through Qualcomm’s support.
During the program, each Scholar received financial assistance through a US$5,000 scholarship and also had the unique opportunity to be mentored for a six-month period by a Qualcomm professional to further enhance her professional development and leadership skills.
As the Program Officer for Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech), administered by the Institute of International Education, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in this program since its inception in 2015 and see the transformation of these young women throughout the course of their mentorships.
“I sometimes was in doubt if I could realize my dreams but because of the support from the HER program there is no doubt for me now. I’m equipped with what I need to face the challenge I might face as a woman.” - HER Graduate
The month of July is a rainy one for Ethiopia. For IIE and the graduates of the Higher Education Readiness (HER) program, however, the 28th of July stands out as a bright and remarkable day where we got together to celebrate 100 girls who successfully graduated from high school and the HER program. These graduates come from underserved communities and families, and the HER program assisted them with a pathway to university and a hope for their future.
Sixty years ago, after gaining independence from France, Tunisia adopted the most progressive laws supporting women’s rights in the Middle East. The Tunisian Code of Personal Status outlawed polygamy, and gave women equal rights around decisions of marriage, divorce and child custody. Over the years, many have tried in the name of religion and cultural norms to challenge these laws. Most recently, the first draft of Tunisia’s new constitution released in 2012 caused outcry among women and emerging civil society organizations when Article 28 described women’s roles in the family as “complementary” to that of men.
Through programs like ACE for Women’s Leadership and Higher Education Readiness (HER), IIE harnesses the power of international education to address major challenges facing the world today. Out of our office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, IIE is partnering with local, national and global leaders to tackle issues across the continent. From Addis to Nairobi to Ghana, IIE is working with African students, leaders, and politicians to promote advocacy and build networks within countries and across borders. Below are our top 5!
Over the past two years I have had the privilege of working on the pilot evaluation of the Higher Education Readiness Program (HER), an IIE initiative that provides secondary school pathways to underprivileged girls in Ethiopia. HER girls continuously inspired me with their hard work and determination to achieve their dreams. Here are some examples:
Mihret is from a semi-rural area of Ethiopia where she passed her 10th and 12th grade national exams successfully. She is now studying at Adama University, pursuing her dream to be a doctor. In her own words: “In 7 years’ time, I will be a doctor and work in a hospital and save lives. I also plan to go abroad for a graduate degree and visit my country to help orphan children.” Mihret is one of a 100 girls in Ethiopia that IIE is helping stay on a pathway to success through the Higher Education Readiness (HER) program. HER is just one example of the Institute’s targeted approach to increasing female access to education and developing leadership skills. Last year alone, IIE-managed programs directly impacted the lives of 20,000 women and girls all over the world.
This past September IIE joined the Clinton Foundation and the Brookings Institution’s Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education (Girls CHARGE). Girls CHARGE is a collaboration of over 50 companies, civil society organizations, multilaterals and governments all committed to improving learning and leadership opportunities for young women and girls globally. IIE and our Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives are excited to be a part of such a powerful collective voice in advancing global action on women and girls education. Girls CHARGE partners have committed over $800 million to reach more than 15 million girls by 2019. IIE’s initial commitment is centered around expanding our HER program to help university become a reality for more than 60 girls in Ethiopia. Three of the HER girls received the highest university entrance exam results at their respective schools!
What does it take to turn a dream into reality? Reflecting on various scholars, fellows and young leaders that I have worked with in the past and more specifically at the Institute of International Education, I have come up with the following items.
Zina Ammar grew up in Gafsa, Tunisia, where she learned how to make the region’s famous Margoum carpets from the women in her family. Zina eventually started her own carpet-making business, but her lack of confidence and business skills limited her success. Hoping to grow her business, Zina enrolled in Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Financial Education trainings at the Women's Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) Center for Women’s Business Development in her community.