Gaza hackathon solves ‘lady problems’

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With engaging spirit and thrill, 60 participants took part in the first Lady Problem Hackathon in Gaza last week.

The event was for mainly young women coders and entrepreneurs, although men were allowed to participate, to solve female-specific problems in Palestine and the region. It was held over three days beginning on December 1, and organized by local accelerator Gaza Sky Geeks and Angel Hack.

Women entrepreneurs and developers from the 'I’m Pregnant' team, working on their website during the hackathon. (Images via Gaza Sky Geeks)

Women-led startups and events are not new to Gaza. It is one place in the Middle East that has a growing community of women entrepreneurs, as was seen at the recent Startup Weekend and Startup Grind events. But the organizers of this hackathon wanted to specifically empower women to develop their tech skills, and be able to later represent Palestine in international events.

The hackathon launched with the participants forming 15 teams that were about 80 percent women.

"It was an amazing experience. With a 83 percent female turnout, it was our best yet for the Lady Problems series across 20 cities worldwide. It was great to see such a range of talent coming together to address barriers for female entrepreneurs and women in tech," said AngelHack director of social innovation Rachel Katz.

Gaza Sky Geeks women inclusivity manager Rana Qrenawi said participants had some training before the hackathon, which helped them to cope with pressure and work smoothly during the event.

“I was so excited with their power! The ladies were very energetic and did a great job during the event,” she said.

Lady problem solvers

Some ideas focused on wellness and for issues such as breast cancer treatment while others tried to empower women via their soft skills. Still others focused on marriage relations and pregnancy support.

The youngest team in the hackathon, Iron Girls

The Iron Girls team led by high school student Zainab Alramlawi developed a website to help women get specialist psychology advice and peer support from the community. The team received a special award (a hardware development kit) for their persistence and effort.

Alramlawi told Wamda that this was not her first startup experience, but it was the first time she and her team won an award that she was very happy with.

Each team got only two minutes to present their work to a panel of judges, but they were well received by the audience.

The first placed winner was a team led by university student Dalal Aziz titled ‘WRights’. It’s an app to help women get easy and quick legal advice on issues women face in Palestine. The app is a step-by-step process to evaluate a woman’s legal problem, and then suggests the most appropriate lawyer and provides community guidance and engagement with people in similar situations.

Dalal from WRights pitches to the jury.

Second and third place respectively went to ‘I’m Pregnant’, an app providing advice and tips for pregnant women, and ‘Tailor Express’, an app to help women buy custom-made dresses by taking her measurements and connecting her with tailors accredited within the app.

A special award was given to Asmaa’ Madhoun, in the Koony team, as the best developer. She learned basic app development skills during the hackathon to build her prototype.

The WRights winners will join Angelhack’s Hackcelerator program in early 2017, an invite-only acceleration program in Silicon Valley.

While many previous Angelhack events took place in Bethlehem, Gaza and Ramallah, this time a women-only team is being nominated to join.

This article has been updated to include a quote from from Anglehack.

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