US Embassies across the Arab region are now accepting applications for 2014’s TechGirls exchange program, which for two years now have sent 25+ secondary school girls aged 15-17 on a three-week program in Washington D.C. focused on high-level study of technology. The program was launched by the US State Department in 2011 under then-Secretary Hillary Clinton.
The goals of the program, according to Lebanon program administrator Nancy Stephan, are to “provide a program of academic study of applied technology for girls who have already demonstrated an aptitude and strong interest in the subject, empower girls to pursue higher education and careers in technology, and link peers who share interests and abilities, develop the leadership skills of the participants.”
The program is currently available to students from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, and Yemen. If everything goes according to plan, three students from each country will be hosted in Washington this summer.
In addition to a week-long academic component of the program, which will take place at American University in Washington D.C. (where the girls will study technology related topics like web design and coding), participants will have the opportunity to visit technology companies in Washington and New York, shadow technology professionals on the job, and participate in community service and cultural activities.
During their time in the US, participants will also begin planning follow-up projects to implement in their home countries, “designed to reinforce and support the skills and linkages acquired during the US [portion of the] program,” says Stephan. “The program will conclude with a debriefing at the US Department of State during which participants will share their exchange experiences and ideas for follow up projects with State Department [officials].
One such follow-up project saw former TechGirl Lina Benamer from Tripoli, Libya teaching her classmates how to use Scratch – an online software platform that allows users to create animations and stories, games, and connect with a global community – a skill she had acquired when visiting Google’s offices in the US (as chronicled in the rather cheesy video below).
The TechGirls program is run by Legacy International, an international capacity building organization specializing in peacebuilding, application of the social entrepreneur model, and conflict resolution, in partnership with iD Tech Camps, a summer tech camp for kids and teens.
Interested students should visit the TechGirls section of their country’s US Embassy website for more information and application instructions (not, inexplicably, the main TechGirls program page).
Applications are due February 23rd.