The Unstoppable Afghan Girls Robotics Team
We’ve seen many Small Victories in the face of xenophobia and discrimination over the past few months. In one of the most recent cases, six young women from Herat, Afghanistan were twice denied visas to gain entry to the United States. The Afghan girls robotics team, a teenage robotics group slated to compete with their ball-sorting robot, applied to come to the country for First Global–an international robotics competition. The reasoning behind the denial of their visa applications is classified as confidential, but according to reports may be related to “concerns they would not return to Afghanistan.” However, amidst a large public outcry and international pressure, President Trump intervened to allow the young women to be let into the country.
The competition took place at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall, where African American singer Marian Anderson was once denied entry to perform before an integrated audience. Their entry on the robotics stage was met with widespread cheering and applause. Although the young women did not place in the competition, their team was awarded a silver medal for “courageous achievement” at the event.
Also a native of Herat, Afghanistan, Code-to-Inspire founder and Peace is Loud speaker, Fereshteh Forough, whose organization seeks to teach technical literacy to girls in Afghanistan, provided Peace is Loud with an exclusive comment on the significance of the Afghan team’s accomplishments:
“Knowledge is power and technology is the tool for that empowerment. Afghanistan’s Girls Robotic team has just further proved that when given the same resources, gender and nationality are irrelevant to success. Brains, hard work, and believing in yourself are all more significant factors to success, and I’m thrilled to see these students given the opportunity to prove themselves.”
The Afghanistan Girls Robotics team is a prime example of the shifting dynamics occurring in infrastructure, technology, and education within a country which saw widespread educational suppression under Taliban rule. According to Fereshteh, a Kabul study found that currently 40 percent of STEM students are female, and that number is steadily growing. Technology is increasingly becoming the wave of the future, and that future is undeniably youth-led and female.