Fereshteh Forough’s Dream for Afghanistan

By: Codey Young, Communications Intern

Fereshteh Forough is a Peace is Loud speaker and Founder of Code to Inspire, an organization that seeks to empower Afghan women through education and technology. In 2013, she was a TED speaker on digital literacy—knowledge, skills, and behaviors used to access digital devices—and communication without borders. 

Peace is Loud speaker Fereshteh Forough was recently interviewed by Bilal Zaidi, host of podcast Creator Lab, about her work with Code to Inspire to educate and empower Afghan women, her early life as a refugee, and her own dreams for her work and for Afghanistan as a whole.

“We try to empower girls online using technology and coding,” Fereshteh explained when asked about Code to Inspire’s mission. “Definitely our biggest mission is to find employment for our girls so [that] they can do work online without being worried about safety, security, family concerns, and [so] they can earn income.”

Fereshteh described the many challenges that she faced growing up as a refugee in Iran and later, as a woman returning to Afghanistan. She told Zaidi how she unintentionally ended up studying computer science—the foundation of Fereshteh’s inspiration to learn and teach coding.

She went on to discuss the creation of Code to Inspire, including how she developed the idea, the organization’s initial outreach and publicity, and the role of fundraising. Currently based in New York City, Fereshteh described the process of helping to develop and establish a coding school in Afghanistan remotely.

The school, she stated, is strategically located in a section of Herat, Afghanistan that is convenient for girls to travel to, giving families greater peace of mind about their daughters’ commutes. “One of the most important things for us [was] to find a place that is safe and secure so the family feels comfortable sending their daughters,” she said.

Fereshteh highlighted the significance of family in an individual girl’s success in Afghanistan. She told of how fathers and brothers had attended their coding school and were so impressed that they became some of the school’s biggest advocates and supporters. Despite instances of gender-based criticism of her work on social media, Fereshteh said, “They actually make me more motivated to go after my dreams.”

Fereshteh envisions a strong future for Code to Inspire: “I want to create a strong network of women in tech in Afghanistan, which we are lacking at this moment, by building coding schools in other cities,” she told Zaidi. And her vision is rapidly growing.

Code to Inspire is the recipient of a Google Rise Award, a $25,000 grant for underserved communities that are helping women and girls to learn computer science. Fereshteh’s acclaimed work has been featured on Google’s homepage, and on The New York Times.

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