In 2013, Amina Chida (Tunisia) participated in TechGirls. Chida has since gone on to become involved in many volunteering campaigns and projects. She’s not just volunteering, however, she’s using these experiences to sharpen her leadership capabilities and gaining lots of wisdom all the while. Read on to glean just some of what Chida has learned.
I am going to start with a saying, a saying that explains why I do what I do:
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” -Ghandi
Through participating in the TechGirls experience in 2013 I learned that there is so much to be done in the world, so much to offer. I learned that studying, doing daily things like that, aren’t enough for me. As I participated in the program and learned how to become a leader of tomorrow, I realized that I should be working on that RIGHT NOW! It is never too early to become a leader, never too early to accomplish things and do something. You will always find something to do—a problem to fix, a cause to stand for, a domain to improve. The TechGirls exchange program literally opened my eyes and was a wake-up call to better my community because as a citizen it is my duty to help.
This is why I began volunteering. For some time, I tried to be the one in charge but it didn’t always work out as I thought. It turned out to be hard to run a project by myself but I refused to give up. It was hard for me when I found out that a lot of other people had the same ideas and thoughts to improve our community but we started preparing projects and working together. Collaborating like this was very beneficial. It is not a matter of who leads but what we do that counts. I know that success only comes when we come together and fight together for the same cause.
Hanging out and relaxing during summer vacation is good for sure, but I wanted to do something more meaningful with my time. Shouldn’t we? I said to myself. Summer can be a great time to relax but also to make the change and actually do something with our precious free time. I heard about a project called “Thebouha.” Don’t you love that name? It’s a name that makes people wonder and asks questions. I got in touch with the organizers. It’s a big sensitization campaign in my town of El Kef, Tunisia to make people aware of environmental issues and pollution. We did a daylong cleaning campaign in several very dirty places and painted the walls of the town with beautiful colors. People responded really well. “Oh, that is beautiful! I want El Kef to always be this way!” Our idea wasn’t just an ordinary cleaning campaign. It went far beyond that. It was original—there was music, rhythm to actually bring people, and make them care and listen to what we have to say. “Our town needs us to be more aware. Keeping it clean is our duty as citizens.” To my eyes, we definitely made that happen. I was so proud of the hard teamwork we accomplished. It was a very beneficial and important event that I took part in and there are more great projects like it coming along in the future.
In addition, I worked with the team PASC el kef (programme d’appui à la société civile) and other local organizations to prepare a yard sale. With the money we raised from the yard sale we purchased school supplies for underprivileged kids. Our goal was to provide them with encouragement to keep studying no matter what and not to lose hope. It was very successful.
I am also helping to coordinate the big Peace Festival in Tunisia. I would like to tell you that with the recent events in Tunisia: terrorism, death of our soldiers, etc., this event is an opportunity to promote peace and fight against terrorism and violence. We say no to violence and no to terrorism. The fight for peace is a noble cause. It’s our hope that Tunisians can break the record for making the biggest number of handprints on a 12000 m² canvas. I have high hopes for Tunisia and I will keep working every day to make it better because it is what we should do, right? We are the future generation of leaders.
I am sending out this message to all young people: if you are lucky enough to be a TechGirl or to be inspired like me or if you are there in your country reading this, volunteering is the best thing that you can do for your community. Volunteering is the best tool to develop your leadership skills.
Marian Williamson said, “In every country there is work to be done, in every nation there are wounds to heal, in every heart there is the power to do it.” I hope you find that power that guides you into doing good in whatever field you choose: tech, ecology, humanitarian work, etc. If you dig deep eventually it is going to come out so never stop searching for it!
TechGirl Ghada Missaoui is a machine! Okay, she’s a bright student from Tunisia who is very human and easy to talk to but she also possesses a singular focus: campaigning to get more girls across the globe to go into engineering. Ghada walks the talk, thinks the talk, lives the talk, writes the talk. She’s been featured on the radio and in the news both in the US and in Tunisia. Here’s just some of what she’s thinking today!
It was a long journey from Tunisia to the TechGirls program. From the Carthage airport to Charles de Gaulle airport to JFK to Washington DC…at that point, I started my new life. The life of my dreams! I attended many important meetings with many inspiring and open-minded people.
The topics were diverse: from social media to the detailed TechGirls schedule. American history and the Vietnam War. Leadership skills for community-based projects, that we continuously worked while in the US with the support of everyone around us, whether a staff member, an entrepreneur, or a mentor. Now that we are back in our home countries, we are implementing the projects we planned.
The TechGirls program allowed me to interact with a wide range of people from different backgrounds, giving me the opportunity to make connections, enlarge my knowledge, be confident, learn about everything, and listen to everyone’s projects, backgrounds, and positions.
“Being into TechGirls is being into people,” some say. It’s true. It gave me the skills and the knowledge of how to use them for the good of my community. Through TechGirls, I gained power, yes, the power to talk to you, and convince you about some topics. I gained the power to plan, design, and build projects that will tackle my community issues. I gained power to be myself and develop my competency to become a leader—I’m not a follower anymore.
After gaining these skills I no longer need motivation—I AM motivated. What I need are intelligent brains to help me design new effective projects. I need to talk to people from different backgrounds to have a wider vision of the world. I need to visit new places to look at the world from another angle.
Now I’m starting a worldwide movement called “Go Girls Engineering” that aims to connect, educate, and empower young ladies in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The movement will improve the representation of women in Engineering and teach them how to use their great abilities to solve world issues and make a positive impact in their communities.
To learn more about Ghada and Go Girls Engineering, check out:
Ouafae Bousbaa is a 17 year old TechGirl (2014) from Zagora, Morocco. Ouafae continually blessed the TechGirls family with her precision, wit, tech skills, and drive. We can’t wait to see her community-based project come to life!
I could write hundreds of pages about my TechGirls experience, but words would never be enough to describe how incredible it was.
I close my eyes and hear the sounds of teenagers from different places playing symphonies with the keyboards, learning through fun at iD Tech Camps. I remember the Hackathons and leadership clinics. I hear the deep voice of Mr. Rash, the president of Legacy International, talking about values, opportunities, leadership, and humanity. He helped me to see things I hadn’t seen before.
I remember the weekend I spent with my host family—the smell of the perfume of my American mom in the middle of her cooking party. We met her friends, cooked together, danced, shared talents, and discussed many topics during a warm summer evening.
All the activities we did together as TechGirls made me feel for the first time a real sense of belonging.
TechGirls is more than just a coding program, it’s a life changing experience. I’m just lucky to have been a part of it. I met with female engineers from Google, Tumblr, Yahoo, Facebook, Instagram, and Girls Who Code. I have new contacts and friends who are ready to help me anytime. I am now capable of doing things I never thought I could do before. TechGirls gave me confidence in myself and what I can do with my life.
Now I’m not just a girl. I’m a TechGirl.
We’re back from New York, and wow—what a trip! New York is known for its crowds, businesses, and quick-paced lifestyle, but also for all the new opportunities that it has to offer people who have big plans for their future. Young entrepreneurs, business moguls, writers—and game changers like the TechGirls—is what New York draws in. The TechGirls left NYC more inspired than they were when they first glimpsed the city skyline.
Despite how busy Manhattan is known to be, we arrived with our minds set on the prize and beelined our way to Google headquarters. Google New York gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “bigger on the inside.” Despite its serious golden facade between 8th and 9th avenue, it became abundantly clear obvious that Google is no stranger to the “work hard; play hard” philosophy. White boards with silly drawings, art, and game rooms lined the halls along with creative working spaces and a mini kitchen no farther than 150 steps away from each office.
At Google we met Sabrina Bektesevic and Hee Jung Ryu, who makes sure that Google is always up and running. During our meeting, Ryu acknowledged that if she had ever paid any heed to the voices that told her that computers are a man’s job, she would have never found her place in Google.
This same message was reiterated when the girls went to Tumblr the next day—Caitlin Abber of MTV Act hosted a panel with 6 women from the Tumblr office about the importance of supporting each other in the workspace. The TechGirls got some tips on how to put together a successful pitch for their community projects and heard from Elisa Shyu of ever-supportive Yahoo!
Through the TechGirls experience, the participants learn that they are part of a larger movement of females in technology and that nothing they do is truly in isolation—this became especially apparent at our pizza mixer with the awesome and powerful Girls Who Code.
While sharing a slice with girls from Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program, the girls got to discussing their community projects, tech skills, and within minutes, some of them were even talking about becoming business partners!
On our last day in NYC, we visited with Bank of America to learn about the ways that changing technologies support and affect business practices. We visited the trading floor and it was fascinating to see the ways that technology have changed the culture of the work environment. Lastly, Bank of America hosted a luncheon and panel, this time with the TechGirls on the mic. The girls shared their stories, visions, and motivations with a room full of executives, all eager to see them succeed.
When people from seemingly disparate backgrounds with shared passions share a laugh or break bread together, it can help to break down barriers, create energetic conversations, and formulate the best of plans! As learned from the tech elders, mentors, and peers the TechGirls met in NYC, nothing is impossible!