After the success of the Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team that visited the United States in July, more and more young girls in Afghanistan have expressed interest in becoming more involved with robotics and technology.
The Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team participated in the First Global Challenge in Washington D.C. After the State Department denied the girls visas twice, widespread condemnation from feminist and humanitarian groups successfully put public pressure on the Department of Homeland Security to issue humanitarian paroles that allowed the girls to enter the country. The girls were awarded silver medals at the competition for their “courageous achievement.”
Upon their return to Afghanistan, the Girls’ Robotics team was welcomed by President Ashrad Ghani and First Lady Rula Ghani, members of parliament, the Minister of Education, and several other state officials. Although they received a positive welcome, many still have concerns about the girls’ safety.
Roya Mahboob, founder of the Afghan Citadel Software Company and CEO of the Digital Citizen Fund, said in an interview with the Feminist Majority Foundation that the Afghan Robotic have become a “symbol of courage and positive change in Afghanistan.” Families who did not want their daughters to come to the United States have asked Mahboob if their daughters could join the team and attend future conferences.
The Afghan Girl’s Robotics team, which is a training project under Digital Citizen Fund’s program, started with only 12 students, but aims to expand by adding eight more this year. The students who are interested in joining the team are mostly from the cities of Herat, Farah and Nimruz. The girls will attend the World Summit AI in the Netherlands in October.
Mahboob’s organization now has the capacity to enroll eight girls who also take an exam before joining the program. According to Mahboob, there were hundreds of girls standing in lines to take the entrance exam for the program. Mahboob’s dream is to establish the first School of Technology, Engineering, and Innovation in Afghanistan. In the meantime, she is working to find additional funding so that she can expand the robotics program and enroll more girls.