Fereshteh Forough began life as an Afghan refugee in Iran. With determination and support from her liberal parents, she went on to pursue a career in computer science and finally moved to New York to found the first coding school for girls in Afghanistan.
New York is a city where dreams are said to come true. And for Fereshteh Forough, it seems to be fulfilling that promise.
Fereshteh was born an Afghan refugee in Iran. In her teens, her family moved back to Afghanistan. In spite of social norms, Fereshteh decided to acquire a degree in computer science. Her liberal parents supported her in obtaining her bachelor’s in Herat, and allowed her to move to Berlin for her master’s degree, a step that was by no means self-evident.
“The perspective was that technology, coding, it’s for men, it’s not for women," Fereshteh says. "So you would be discouraged from that. Looking at Afghanistan as a country, we see that it’s still a traditional country and it’s very family-oriented. So it’s not part of our culture that you go and live in another city by yourself or have a roommate. So technically as a woman you’re stuck in your home town.”
Inspired by her experiences as an Afghan woman in a man’s world, Fereshteh moved to New York. From her apartment in Brooklyn she founded the first coding school for girls in Afghanistan.
“The mission and the goal of Code to inspire is equality, especially in a country like Afghanistan where women are deprived from accessing basic infrastructure like education. We want to give the opportunity for these girls to learn 21st Century skills: coding, being independent and fighting for their social, political and economic equality,” Fereshteh says.
At Code to Inspire in Herat, almost 100 girls aged between 15 and 25 learn how to compete on the global tech market. For the girls, the education is free of charge. The school is funded by donations and grants. In Afghanistan, women only make up 16 percent of the country’s labor force. Coding enables women to work online, no matter their location or status.
Fereshteh manages the school from New York, the place where technological developments evolve the quickest. Her vision is that in future, her students will be paid in the cryptocurrency bitcoin.
“Here in New York, I just got my tea. I bought it with bitcoin. And there are a lot of places that accept it. However, in Afghanistan, I’m not able to do that. But hopefully in the future there will be a way that I can buy tea in Afghanistan with bitcoin.”
Author: Anne Schwedt
First published: March 8, 2018
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