One TechGirl inspires with a special message to leaders everywhere

Islamic Relief USA’s Nada Shawish writes on a special letter she received from one very special TechGirl who is working hard to become a leader in a male-dominated field.

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I’ve read so many pieces of writing here at Islamic Relief USA. Some are from the field, some are from donors, some are from staff members, and some are from community leaders. But the ones that mean the most are the ones we receive from the people we support with your donations and volunteered time. One particular piece we received from a high school girl makes me so hopeful for the future of our world. Kenza, from the group TechGirls, believes she can make a difference in her country and elsewhere. She believes in change and a better world, and she’s using her skills and ideas to positively impact her community, even in the face of adversity.

The staff at Islamic Relief USA headquarters got to learn about these ideas first-hand when TechGirls, a group of nearly 30 girls from all over the Middle East who want to pursue careers in technology, visited the headquarters office on Aug. 21. Through an interactive event, IRUSA provided real-life examples of how technology is crucial to humanitarian work, and lead the group through a presentation on the importance of leadership

roles for girls and women. It was a lively exchange that had both IRUSA staff and the girls learning, laughing, and realizing the importance of such a program.

The TechGirls program, administered by Legacy International and supported by the United States Department of State, is a three-week initiative designed to provide girls from the Middle East and North Africa with the knowledge and resources to pursue higher education and careers in technology. These girls, mostly high school age, are sponsored on a trip to the U.S. in which they interact with peers, meet with experts in the field, attend workshops, and more. Many of these girls already have amazing ideas on how they can help change their communities for the better by utilizing technology to connect people and for education about important issues.

I was so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet these young leaders and I pray for their success.

Empowering women and young girls to pursue their interests is an important part of strengthening vulnerable communities. If you give women and girls the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe and supportive atmosphere, it’s likely their communities will grow positively too. TechGirls is one program that helps do that.

Before they returned home, I tasked the girls to write me an answer to the following questions: Why do you want to be a leader in technology and why is it important for you to be a leader in technology?

Kenza wrote me back just a short week later.

I hope you’ll enjoy her letter to us as much as I did. I hope she inspires you to cultivate your own talents and make a difference in our world the best way you know how, even when it’s hard.

Why do I want to be a leader in technology?

That’s a good question!

We live in a time where technology has taken a big part of our lives. So, I think that now the only leaders who can have an impact in this world are the ones who use technology. For me, the real question is: Why do I want to be a leader?

We, in the other parts of the world, live in corruption, fear and ignorance. Everyone is always waiting for someone to change things. Yet, everyone is afraid to do it. I believe that one person can’t change everything alone, neither can a small group. These can be the sparks of change, but if everybody doesn’t participate in this change, it will never come. Let me give an example.

Imagine that we have a wall of 100 miles that is 15 feet tall, an old wall. One day Mr X wanted to paint it. He wanted this wall to be the most beautiful wall in the world. He made plans to paint it. Do you think he can? Alone, he can spend his lifetime doing it, but he may not finish it. Or he can drive other people to paint with him so that each of the people would go and paint a small part of the wall. This way, the wall will be painted with a lot of different perspectives, a lot of creativity, and above all, the wall will represent teamwork. It will be the pride of all the people! … This is how change has to occur.

I don’t want to be a leader… I have to! Being a leader nowadays is part of being a human. It is part of willing the best for everyone else around us. Everyone has to be a leader. Everyone has to participate in leadership. What is leadership? Leadership is a way in which we shape a better future.

As long as we can love, as long as we can empathize and understand one another, and as long as we can take action, we are leaders.

The question is “Why do I want to be a leader in Technology?”

First, I don’t want to be a leader, I already am. I was born a leader. Second, the only way that I can achieve the reason I was born is through technology.

Being a leader is not a choice; it is a responsibility and a duty.

Hafidakom Allah.

—Kenza

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