Empowering Girls in Digital Innovation

Aug 3, 2023

The City Hall (Kamal Chunchie Way, London E16 1ZE)
18 July 2023, 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Photo Credit: Sinai Noor

On Tuesday 18 July 2023, the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) launched
“The Wired Future: Digital Education for Girls from Afghanistan Project” at the London City
Hall. The project launch event, which brought together over 200 people from different walks of
life at the heart of the Mayor’s office, including parliamentarians, journalists, diaspora
community members, local organisations, and tech organisations, was a great success.

The Wired Future Project was designed in response to the Taliban’s ongoing denial of education
for young girls throughout Afghanistan. As young girls arrive in the UK as refugees or asylum-
seekers, they continue to face a number of barriers to education and employment. Wired Future
aims to provide digital education to 400 newly-arrived refugee girls from Afghanistan over a 2-
year period, through workshops on digital rights, digital security, and digital health in hopes of
filling the gendered digital divide.

The event featured a number of different speakers and cultural performances, with Shabnam
Nasimi, Former Policy Advisor to the Minister of Afghan Resettlement and Minister of
Refugees, chairing the launch. The opening remarks were delivered by Bob Cornell, a long-time
supporter and funding advisor to the ACAA, who spoke about his relationship with the ACAA
and Dr. Nasimi, shining light on how important this project is, particularly important and worthy
of support.

Dr. Nooralhaq Nasimi, Founder and Director of the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association
spoke passionately about the current situation facing Afghanistan, and his personal journey of
fleeing persecution by the Taliban and coming to the UK at the back of a refrigerated lorry in
1999 with his wife and three small children. He emphasised on the goals of the ACAA from its
very inception in 2000 – to provide a space for Afghanistan and Central Asian refugees, like Dr.
Nasimi and his family, to find a safe space to aid in transitioning into a new life, and so on. He
appealed for greater support for the people of Afghanistan and refugees in the UK from the
British politicians.

The keynote speaker of the evening was Sir Hugh Bayley, former Labour MP of York and
president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and the current Commissioner for the
Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). Sir Hugh Bayley has been a strong advocate
for the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and shared some interesting findings from

ICAI’s report on “UK Aid to Afghanistan Since the Taliban Takeover” and the UK aid spending
on resettling refugees in the UK.

Dr. Gail Marzetti, the Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the Department of Health
and Social Care (DHSC) stressed the disadvantages faced by women and girls worldwide, but
especially in conflict areas such as Afghanistan. Dr. Marzetti called attention to the wide range
of opportunities that open up when women and girls have access to education, and how girls’
education benefits all of society and it’s in men’s best interest. Tabasom, aged 10, reiterated Dr.
Marzetti’s sentiment that digital education for girls from Afghanistan opens up key

The next speaker, Julie Bishop, CEO of IT Naturally used her personal experience as a woman in
technology to emphasize the importance of young girls getting into technology. Ms. Bishop
spoke directly to the young girls in the audience and beyond, spotlighting the necessity of
technological education. She discussed how technology is not only crucial but fun as well,
referencing the ways in which different digital hobbies can apply to such a wide range of work.
Ms. Bishop cited a very interesting finding, that surgeons who play video games frequently are
faster and more precise in surgery. She signed off her speech speaking once again to the young
girls, letting them know that if they ever have any interest in getting a job in IT, they can come to

Vinay Thaker, an Operations and Data Science Strategist at BlueShift Coding introduced the
work that their not-for-profit organisation does, announcing ACAA’s partnership with BlueShift
Coding. He also spoke about the importance of teaching digital skills, especially coding to girls
and how they serve as a gateway to a world full of opportunities. Rosie and Neda, project
participants, aged 11, reminded the audience “how interconnected we all are with the girls in
Afghanistan and through this project, each girl is being given a superhero cape”.

We were very pleased to have worked with a number of young UK-based refugee girls from
Afghanistan who shared their voices and stories, giving speeches on why The Wired Future
Project is so important to them. Prior to the event, these young girls also participated in
workshops led by Majid Adin, the animation artist to create Unleashing Potential: An Animation
Video on Girls' Education using word sequences, voiceovers, stop motion, and 2D art. The
animation video was screened at the project launch and showcased girls’ passion for technology
and the digital medium while simultaneously educating the audience on the current plight of
girls’ education in Afghanistan. ACAA’s Children’s Poetry Group, formed as part of our
Ferdowsi Supplementary School, also recited a very heart-rending poem on the love for the
homeland called ‘Watan Ishq Tu Iftikhar.’

Our final speaker of the evening, Arzo Naubahar, Founder and Director at Peroozi Support and
Empowerment Organisation (PSEO), gave an incredibly moving speech sharing her personal
experiences as a woman from Afghanistan, and how the lack of access to education continues to
leave women from Afghanistan among the most disadvantaged. Arzo’s powerful words “It’s not
just lives that are murdered, it’s hope for the future, it’s imagination” left a reverberating impact
on the audience.

The audience enjoyed the Rubab and Tabla performance by Milad Yousofi and Nasir Popal who
played traditional music from Afghanistan to challenge the Taliban's ban on music for being “un-Islamic”. The Sujata Banerjee Dance Company, founded by MBE Sujata Banerjee, took part inthe event as well, bringing a group of 5 young Indian girls who performed Kathak, a form of
classical Indian dance.

The partners of the event were BlueShift Coding. We would like to thank the partners for supporting the ACAA and The Wired Future Project.

If you would like further information on the project and the work we do with UK-based refugee girls from Afghanistan, please get in touch with our team at ACAA. We welcome referrals of refugee girls and are very keen to work with other organisations on making sure the project makes a big and lasting impact.

By Riya Mohan

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