Girl Power in Afganistan


Sometime ago I was offered an opportunity to go to Afghanistan for work. With the financial crisis in full swing, and riots breaking out in London, I really didn’t see any reason not to.

Fair enough, most of my friends questioned my decision. Why on earth would anyone who is of sound mind and body decide to go to a war zone? They collectively decided I was not so sane of mind. They might be right. Then again, they could have known.

While out there, I met a girl called Nilab. Friendly but quiet, she did her work and kept pretty much to herself. One lunch time we got to talking a little more, and I found out she was applying for scholarships, but was a bit disillusioned because she was always rejected in the first round. As we were talking, I started to recognise a bit of myself in her. It just needed to get out. So, I decided to push her a little.

We worked on her scholarship application together, which didn’t mean I did her application for her. To the contrary, she did the work and we revised the drafts together. It’s also how I found out she was really an IT geek. We were both nervous when she submitted her application, but lo and behold, she got through the first round. And the second one. Unfortunately not the third one, but she’ll be trying again this year. And we will both get over our disappointment.

A little later, an IT Manager job came up. With the proportion of women in IT in the Western world hovering around 15%, and the proportion of women in IT in Afghanistan around 0%, Nilab’s chances of getting a job like that didn’t look that good from the start. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I still told her I thought she should apply. Seriously, what’s the worst that can happen? They’ll say thanks but no thanks, and she still has a job. So I pushed her a little more, purely because I was convinced she could do it.

She applied, aced the interviews, and got the job. I’ve heard she’s doing really well at it too. She took me for lunch to thank me. I pointed out I did not apply for the job, did not have the interview, and did not bribe or bully someone into hiring her. Giving someone a little push is hardly the hard work. She’s really done it all herself. She loves the job and is much happier now, which clearly shows. I’m incredibly proud of her.

Her dream is to become one of the top 10 women in IT – nothing wrong with setting the bar high. And you know what? I’ll be watching her achieving it.

You go girl!