Interview with Mahdia Daqiq: Afghan Girls Build

When I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a boot camp that was designed by a high school student. It was amazing, a young girl who is from Afghanistan and a student in the United States, went back to Afghanistan to organize this event to give an opportunity to other girls. I couldn’t help but be inspired by her.

I immediately wanted to speak with Mahdia and get to know her, so I sent her a LinkedIn message and she responded! She was more than happy to speak to me, and so here’s the interview:

Ayesha: Tell me about yourself, a little introduction.

Mahdia: I am seventeen years old, a senior in high school and came to the United States from Afghanistan in 2015 as an international student. In December of 2017, I built the Afghan Girls Build bootcamp.

Ayesha: How did this idea come to you and what inspired you to do this in Afghanistan?

Mahdia: I attended a summer camp in 2016 with Make School Academy and I learned coding there. That was the start for me. I learned a lot about game development and app development. There, I also learned about the gender gap in Computer Science. U.S. is a developed country and it has a large gender gap, however, Afghanistan is a developing nation. Therefore, if Afghanistan starts early in addressing the gender gap in technology, we can prevent that from happening.

Ayesha: What was the most challenging part about bringing this bootcamp to life?

Mahdia: So, I had a very limited time in Afghanistan and I was only there for a month. I had to organize a bootcamp and have students in it. The response was amazing, more than 100 people signed up in the first week just from posting it on Facebook. Majority of the people couldn’t come due to rides, conflicting schedule, and resources. The most challenging part was bringing everyone together for such a limited time. I taught 20 young women every day for 5 hours for two weeks. It was tough, but it worked out at the end. There wasn’t enough time to do everything. But everyone was able to make their own personalized websites by the end of the program.

Ayesha: How do you think the girls in the bootcamp felt about the experience? Can you give an example?

Ayesha: How do you think the girls in the bootcamp felt about the experience? Can you give an example?

Mahdia: I loved their expressions, best experience in my life. The girls were between the age of 13 to 46 years old. It was diverse. Some of them had jobs some were going to school. In the beginning, they were confused because they only signed up hearing that a girl from America is coming to teach the course. The first week consisted of basic HTML, CSS. By the End of the first week, they were frustrated, excited and surprised. It was amazing that they never knew what they could make from this bootcamp. One girl changed her major from Economics to Computer Science. Another girl got a job by showing a company what she made from the bootcamp. People were having a positive reaction. In fact, Afghanistan is a country where they are taking action to save spots for women, for example, there should be at least 20 women in parliament. People are trying to have a certain number of girls in their company and this is a trend that is happening in Afghanistan.

Ayesha: What was the main purpose of this bootcamp and what did you want the girls to take away from it?

Mahdia: The main purpose was to give the girls a chance and get them to explore something new, I love coding and I wanted to share that with them. The bootcamp was free along with everything else. I wanted to give a chance to underrepresented and unprivileged girls that’s why everything was free and we were even able to provide computers for students who didn’t have any by the help of Netlinks company. I wanted to give everyone a chance to show what they are really capable of, The opportunity to try something new. I achieved that goal, my students went beyond my expectations and they went on to create more websites and build more!

Ayesha: Did the bootcamp have a lasting effect on you personally?

Mahdia: When I started it, I was 17 years old and in Kabul. I didn’t think it was going to be as big as it turned out to be. The girls were so excited and that made it great. I saw them struggle and gore. It was so empowering, it was great to see them excited the way I was when I discovered coding. I want to expand to different cities and have my older students take on leadership roles for the upcoming bootcamps.

Ayesha: Is there any last thing you want to say?

Mahdia: I want to fundraise for this program so I am able to expand and other girls from other provinces can attend this program. For anyone who is reading this, I want to send across a message. That is: everyone can do something to help someone in need. No matter small or big, it is your actions matter.

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