Hello, I’m Achia Nila. I was born and raised in a village and peri-urban area
I got a good education. In my school, there were both boys and girls. So I never thought about gender issues. I was good at studying and I wanted to study computer engineering. I joined my University and on the first day, I was shocked. Unlike school and college, I was the only girl in the classroom. So I started looking for senior females in the entire university. There were two women, one had already quit and another was about to quit. In the entire country, there were hardly any women in the digital space. This is where my days of struggle started. People did not take women seriously at all. They did not think we can be good at something like coding.
During my second year, I applied for my first job. There I saw that women were only accepted for graphics. Hardcore coding was a complete ‘no-go’ zone for girls. I had to fight for my first job but I got it. I was again the only girl in the coding department. There were many challenges. Let’s not get into that, it will be a very long story. But in short, the more time I spent, I became more aware of the challenges women face. It broke my heart. Because it is not about judging women in a certain job. The entire society was judging our existence, our capacity, our dreams just based on one thing- our gender. I knew very clearly that I am not going to keep fighting just for my own personal acceptance. Coding is something I love, I enjoy. And there is nothing about being a man or woman that affects coding. This became a bigger vision for me. To bring more Bangladeshi women in technology. To empower women through technology. This is how Women in Digital was born.
In the year 2013 I started with a small group of 5 women. Today we have trained more than 5000 females in technology. More than 3000 are actively working. In the beginning, it was a challenge to convince the girls and their parents. Another challenge was, we needed women with a good education. So we could mostly work with girls from middle-class backgrounds. We all know that low-income families or rural areas need bigger help. This is why we started running training programs in the villages as well. Today, we have many success stories of women from different backgrounds. We have a woman who could not continue her higher studies because of the family’s poor financial condition. Today she is able to support her family. We have a rural girl from Mymensingh village, who now leads in that area.
There are many success stories like that.
Women in Digital today focuses on three areas.
Women in Digital Agency: where women engineers develop IT products for international Clients mostly in Australia and USA market. Recently we developed a water billing software for our local govt.
Women in Digital Tech School- This is where we actually provide computer training for girls to be ready for the job-market.
Women in E-commerce- With this we are completely focusing on the rural women. Here we create an international market for their handicraft products through our social media and website. The entire team from craftswomen, photographers to digital coder are women.
With the help of Spring program since last year, we have been able to develop financial model for training center. Starting this February, we will have four Tech schools in different areas of Bangladesh, Dhaka, Ramgonj, Kurigram and Mymensingh which will run like permanent institutes.
Bangladesh is probably one of the best countries in South Asia to encourage women in the digital space. Because of the government’s initiatives like Digital Bangladesh, we have the opportunity to reach even the most remote region, train the girls and also find them international jobs. There is a huge opportunity. I am proud of training 5000 women, but we have the potential for millions. Of course there are challenges, it starts with the family, society, education system, exposure, the attitude of job providers, and much more. But we have already come a long way. From being the only girl in the class to being able to see thousands of girls. Women in Digital is not only a dream, it is a reality and a platform for a better future for women and girls in this country.