In 2013, Achia Nila founded Women in Digital. Now, her organization has six programs, reaching thousands of women and girls throughout Bangladesh.
“After being the only girl in the class, seeing thousands of girls represented in tech is powerful.”
I was born and raised in a village and peri-urban area, where I received a good education. My school was co-ed, so I never thought about gender issues. I was good at studying and I wanted to pursue computer engineering. On my first day of university, I was shocked to find I was the only girl in the classroom. There were two female senior students in the entire university; one had already quit and another was about to quit. In the entire country, there were hardly any women in the digital space. People did not take women seriously or think we could 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, but the more time I spent, the more I understood the obstacles women face in my field.
It broke my heart to see society judge our existence, our capacity, and our dreams based on one thing: our gender. I knew clearly that I was not going to keep fighting just for my personal acceptance. This became a bigger vision for me to bring more Bangladeshi women and girls into technology — to empower women and girls through technology. This is how my organization, Women in Digital, was born.
In 2013, I started with a small group of five women. Today we have trained more than 11,769 females in technology. More than 7,000 are actively working. In the beginning, it was a challenge to convince the girls and their parents. Another challenge was needing women with a good education; we could mostly work with girls from middle-class backgrounds. We knew that low-income families or rural areas needed additional 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, who today is able to support her family. We have a rural girl from Mymensingh Village, who now leads technology efforts in her community.
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 can reach even the most remote regions, train the girls, and find them international jobs. I am proud of training 11,769 women, but we have the potential to reach millions more.
Women in Digital focuses on three areas: developing IT products, providing computer training to women and girls, and creating international markets for hand-crafted artisan products. Through our Women in Digital Agency, women engineers develop IT products for global clients, primarily in Australian and American markets. For example, we have developed a water billing software for a local government, a soil testing mobile app, an e-learning platform for local and international clients, and a good number of web and mobile applications for clients. Now our girls are working on high-tech like Blockchain. We have completed “training for the trainer” on Blockchain.
When it comes to training, Women in Digital Tech School provides computer training for girls to be ready for the job market. Women in E-commerce focuses on rural women, creating an international market for their hand-crafted products through our social media and website. We also launched “Women in Cybersecurity” to keep our girls safe in the cyber world. Women in agro-tech is another new initiative.
Women in Digital is an initiative where we work to make technologists and enable women and girls in tech. During COVID-19, we created a new initiative for the girls called “Digital Skills for All.” This program is organized with support from The EQUALS Digital Skills Project. In this digital era and especially during these challenging times, the program is critical for women’s empowerment in the digital field of IT. Along with developing and enhancing women’s knowledge and experience in various other sectors, it is necessary to accelerate their digital literacy. In addition to generating strongly skilled, diligent women, this program will help bolster our country’s overall economic growth and establishment.
We are already in the execution phase of the project. Through this project, our primary objective is to cultivate women’s talents to transform their economic circumstances eventually. We offer a course curriculum, followed by mentorship from highly skilled individuals to ensure that women thrive and promote their achievements in the demanding world of technology.
In addition to the course certifications, we will also support the students who successfully pass courses by ensuring related jobs and clients for them from online platforms such as Fiverr, UpWork Inc., PeoplePerHour, and Freelancer.com. This way, they can implement their knowledge and skills from this course to earn a sustainable living through these platforms. We will also ensure that the students benefit from the e-commerce platform to effectively market and sell their products. We have trained more than 550 students from all over Bangladesh.
After being the only girl in the class, seeing thousands of girls represented in tech is powerful. Now, Women in Digital is not only a dream but a reality — a platform for a better future for women and girls in this country and the world. If you would like to join us in our journey, send us opportunities for technical work. We are here to help you.
If you want to join me in working to increase the number of women in the tech community, you can help by giving women and girls your unused computers, laptops, and mobile devices, along with contributing financially to their education and aspirations. Through your support, we can change lives.
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