Technology Inspires Leadership in Teen Girls
A group of tech-savvy high school age girls from Kyrgyzstan mingled with U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Pamela Spratlen in July as they proudly showed off information and communication technology (ICT) projects that they had created as participants of the Tech Age Girls (TAG) project. The project gave the girls an opportunity to travel away from their villages and meet each other, along with helping them develop leadership skills, a sense of volunteerism, and confidence. IREX’s youth and technology projects help young participants to develop marketable IT skills as well as the life skills to help them contribute meaningfully to the economic and civic life of their communities and nations.
Thirty-four out of 460 girls were selected based on what they learned and what they produced as young community leaders. Some conducted computer trainings for other youth, parents and neighbors while others worked with local women leaders to create content about them on the web. Seven of these girls later recreated this Tech Expo for the international participants of the Central Asia and Afghanistan Women’s Economic Symposium held in Bishkek where again they showcased different ICT tools, such as Storify, Twitter, Facebook, QR codes, and Google Earth. IREX has found that a program model in which youth train and inspire other youth and community members deepens the impact and sustainability of the work.
The girls suggested over 45 internet and media solutions for marketing and public relations companies, developed 11 Wikipedia articles on companies or their products in Kyrgyz and Russian languages, and created 14 media products.
The event wrapped up a two-week long conference that involved a multi-faceted training series, which incorporated training in information technology, leadership, public speaking, teamwork, and negotiation. Further, as part of their training, the girls met with women-leaders from the government, business, and NGO sectors. The technology component in TAG is the hook in youth development. By interweaving technology into the curriculum with life skills, it serves as the tool to help shape and prepare these young women as effective future civic leaders.
TAG Participant Dariya Azina realized during the project that her desire to help her community was much bigger than she had thought before, “Thanks to TAG I got to know myself better. I have always known that I want to be useful for the society, but I haven’t realized how much I wanted it.”
The conference has wrapped up, but the TAG project will continue as three TAG finalists will travel to the United States this October to represent Kyrgyzstan to their American counterparts. Youth has the responsibility to not only lead their local community but also serve as global ambassadors. The three youth will return to Kyrgyzstan with a worldly perspective and understanding that they can apply to their lives and those around them.
Dariya said she thinks that access to knowledge and new skills will make them more competitive professionally. She said, “In fact, all human beings are born to make their own contribution, to stand out, to be better than others in doing something. I want Kyrgyz girls to stand out for being smart and quick-witted. Our girls are very smart, they just need to develop their potential, apply their knowledge on practice and go forward without fears.”
TAG is funded by the U.S. Department of State and is implemented by IREX. The conference was funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Embassy of the United States in Kyrgyzstan, and the Soros Foundation – Kyrgyzstan.
To get an inside scoop of what it's like to work on the TAG project, see Program Officer Myahriban Karyagdyyeva's blog.