My name is Arwa Al-Anesi and I am from Yemen. I studied computer science and have worked in the field of technology for the last 15 years. I was lucky enough to begin my programming life by working in the biggest IT company in Yemen and I played a strong role in preparing some of the biggest database projects in the country. My experience in the field of IT is very rich mainly because it's my passion.
I am proud to be the only female in Yemen who has led such sensitive IT projects in my country with numerous staff under my authority. But it was not easy for a female to gain the trust of her majority male employees. My community still does not believe in the abilities of girls and think that women cannot take responsibility and should not be trusted with sensitive and difficult tasks. I did not quit and day after day I broke that rule and was able to gain more confidence that was not even given to my male colleagues. I still remember many of the situations in which I was exposed as a woman working in programming and system analysis for major systems for Yemen government branches. I am happy that through my work, I won the trust of many official authorities and companies that I worked for. Moreover, it was not easy at all to convince the institutions, which we were implementing the software systems for, to be convinced of my abilities to head such missions. At times, I was ridiculed by those institutions and some even asked the company I work for to exclude me from those projects because its sensitive projects and females cannot take main rules in such projects. The confidence of the company I work for was very large and in a short period of time I became the company's systems and technology manager. Through my work I was able to prove to everyone who worked with me that the woman is more precise and proficient in accomplishing tasks, especially in the field of software industry. Not only that, but I received many job offers with European IT companies, our company has been implementing many projects in Yemen and the Middle East.
Today, those days formed beautiful memories of personal success. Then, war broke out in Yemen putting huge barriers in front of my mission. Unfortunately, three years ago, a regional war broke out in Yemen. The war destroyed much of Yemen's infrastructure. Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed and thousands of innocent civilians died, including dozens of women and children. Tens of hospitals and thousands of schools have been destroyed. Millions of children have been unable to continue their education. Famine and deadly epidemics spread and what made the situation worse is the imposition of a total siege on all ports of Yemen. An entire nation is being lost, and hundreds of thousands left the country escaping death not knowing what the future will be like.
But life is not over. We can't give up. Being a woman in a society that does not believe in a women's abilities has not discouraged me from thinking about sending hope to people and children. I decided not to remain indifferent to what was happening. I have taken a dream and decided to achieve it on the ground, although it may seem impossible under the current circumstances. This dream is to take the initiative to teach children without discrimination between boys and girls to learn computer programming. It may seem an inappropriate dream, but I believe in my heart that what has been destroyed by the war can be rebuilt by the confidence that these children will gain when they learn programming. I want to give them hope on bright future waiting for them and shorten a part of what they miss every day in learning because of the war. I decided to build an army of children programmers who call for peace. This idea did not materialize on the ground quickly. I looked for methods and curriculums that children can interact with. I then prepared a study that enables me to convince educational institutions that are still operating during war to adopt my idea. Recently, I saw light. I succeeded and convinced a primary school in the capital Sana'a to share my goals and they did. Today, I am teaching 140 young students programming, most of them are girls. What amazes me is the level of intelligence of these children. Some of whom are only seven years old. Every day I go to teach these children, I feel that I am born again just from what I see in their eyes which is full of hope and creativity. I cannot believe that this fictional story is occurring now in one of the world's greatest humanitarian catastrophes. For sure, I will not stop here. I will continue until I could see a programmer in each home in Yemen instead of a fighter! I am sure that one day the world will get amazed by the number of female programmers from Yemen, and I want to be the reason to see my country rise from the rubble of war by spreading knowledge, programming and hope among the growing generation in Yemen.
This post was submitted in response to STEM Is for Everyone.