The Internet has brought a whole new world of information and enablement for us,” said Shafiq Khalid, a 12-year-old student in Islamabad, Pakistan. “My mother is happy I’m sharing delicious recipes with her.”
Khalid is one of the hundreds of girls participating in a programme offered by the Pakistan Social Association (PSA) and supported by local Internet Society's chapter members that gives young rural girls basic training in computer and Internet use. As chapter developer manager for the Internet Society, I had a chance to talk to some of the many girls impacted by this project.
“Women are nearly 53% of our population, and most of them are in villages,” explained Ammar Jaffri, president of PSA and Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter member. “If we train one girl, she will bring change in her entire family, especially when educating her own children.”
Since 2012, 15 community leaders in villages around Islamabad were prepared as multipliers and given the tools to educate 20 young girls each. Last April 25th, the final phase of the training was celebrated during ICT [Information and Communications Technology] for Girls day. Around 300 girls came together to receive their certification after successfully completing their exams. The hope is that these girls continue to invest in their education and eventually move into the ICT industry.
“It’s an amazing platform - to be able to receive so much information and knowledge!” said 14-year-old student Qurat-ul-Ain Abbasi. “We are quite new to the Internet world, but we would like to receive more training and courses so we can get the most out of it.”
Technology and the gender gap
Getting rural students, especially the girls, involved and comfortable with computers and the Internet early is crucial for increasing diversity in the ICT industry, as well as the greater online community.
Even more important, the initiative bravely and directly addresses gender inequality, one of the country's most pressing social issues. “After the encouragement from the success of ICTs for Girls Day, we are planning to expand the training to 20,000 girls,” said Jaffri. “We intend to implement this project in all rural parts of Pakistan as a pilo t. This would help to address gender inequality in Pakistan and set a trend for others to follow.”
Watching these girls browsing around the Internet and making an effort to learn more with each click was a very special moment. The shining replies I got while seeking their interviews made me understand and value even further our commitment to keeping the Internet as open, free and accessible platform for human development.