Women in Technology Forum (Professional forum for Women in IT)

Women in Technology Forum (Professional forum for Women in IT)

Yemen
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Created to:
• Raise awareness of the importance of technology in economic development and create employment opportunities for women
• Provide a safe space for women throughout Yemen to share resources and mobilize around common issues
• Encourage women to conduct community outreach and participate in civil society building activities

About You
Organization:
SOUL for Development
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Section 1: About You
First Name

Lina

Last Name

Al-Eryani

Country

, SN

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

Organization Name

SOUL for Development

Organization Phone

+967-1-223999/+967-1-824084 fax: +967-1-250696

Organization Address

Alhuri Street, in front of Shehab Agency P.O. Box 18383 Sana'a

Organization Country

, SN

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

Innovation
What makes your idea unique?

• First national women’s forum in Yemen
• Allows women from all over the country to communicate, network and learn from each other
• Provides women with free IT training – utilizes the knowledge of the members by having them conduct trainings for other members
• Provides women with a way to use their IT skills by working on promotional materials, the forum newsletter, the forum website and the forum employment database. Additionally, the forum provides women with the opportunity to pass on their knowledge to other women
• Enables women to take part in civil society building activities and connect with their local communities
• Develops concept of volunteerism – taking pride in their communities and working to create change from within
• Increases employability – provides women with skills to be competitive in the job market
• Increases self-confidence of the women involved – confidence in their computer skills and confidence to enter the workforce
• Provide members with the opportunity to conduct awareness raising sessions on various topics that are of interest to the community such as HIV/AIDS, Breast cancer and personal hygiene
• Local Ownership - Enables women to take ownership of the forum and take it in the direction they choose – they elect leaders, choose a slogan for their chapter etc. and vote on what activities they want to pursue

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

Networking
• Expansion of the forum to 5 governorates allows women from diverse regions to network with one another, share resources and mobilize around common issues. Forum members have conducted site visits to other regions to share best practices/challenges. There are currently 144 active forum members. In addition to 13 male members who requested after attending some of the forum activities.

Employability and Entrepreneurship
• Provides women with opportunities to participate in supplemental trainings and employment workshops that increase their employability and ability to financially support themselves.
• Forum developed employment database connects potential employers with forum members. By keeping personal information private, the database ensures that women are selected for jobs based upon their qualifications and not their caste, religion or family name. To date over 160 women have secured jobs or internship opportunities.
• Over 15 forum members have started their own businesses

Community Development
• Forum members have launched awareness sessions on topics such as HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, problems with early marriage and Breast Cancer. Sessions are often directed at people in rural areas who have little or no knowledge of these topics.
• Forum members have reached well over 3,000 community members and students through outreach sessions and visits to local schools.
• The forum is currently conducting the first ever blogging competition for Yemeni women.
• Increased participation in community activities has enabled women to prove that they are vital to creating change and building the Yemeni civil society.
• Forum members’ participation in awareness and training sessions has encouraged parents to send their daughters to school as they realize education provides girls with the opportunity to actively participate in society.

Participant Profile
Paralyzed from the waist down since birth, Huda has faced numerous challenges growing up in Yemen; a country where handicapped girls are often hidden away due to their family’s shame and the social stigma’s attached to their disability. This seemingly insurmountable obstacle has not stopped Huda. Through her participation in the Women in Technology Forum, she has gained valuable computer and professional skills and now teaches and mentors other disabled women. Huda believes her experience has empowered her to reach out the world and inspire other women.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

• Lack of safe space for women to gather and mobilize
• Existing view of women in Yemeni society and social norms
• Lack of a support structure and resources for professional women
• Lack of job/internship opportunities
• Lack of resources to learn IT skills, professional development skills and take supplemental computer trainings
• Lack of understanding of the importance of volunteerism and community involvement

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. What might prevent that success?

• Giving the women ownership of the forum – investing in the forum vision
• Increased membership
• Connecting local women’s networks through exchanges
• Launching new initiatives such as the Blogging competition
• Conducting outreach to the public and private sectors to gain support and create partnerships
• Establishing relationship between the forum members and public schools through free training and awareness sessions. Thus contributing to improving students’ understanding of the importance of volunteering as well as raising their awareness on various issues such as adolescence, keys to success, proper nutrition and personal hygiene.

Obstacles to success
• Lack of funding
• Unstable political environment in Yemen and threat of violence
• Social norms and customs

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

Employment & Entrepreneurship
2010:
• Increased use of the employment database by the public and private sectors
• Increase in employment among female graduates
• Establish partnerships with Micro Credit institutions and increase number of loans provided to forum members
• At least 10 new businesses started
• Minimum of 20 professional skills training workshops conducted
2011:
• Establish forum chapters in 2 new governorates and recruit more staff
• Increase in mentoring relationships between private businesses and women starting their own businesses
• At least 20 new businesses started
• Increase in the number of professional development workshops and IT trainings for women in vulnerable populations
2012:
• Employment database expanded to include male and female university and vocational training graduates
• Increase accessibility to online job search tools
• Expand forum to 3 additional governorates
• Increase forum membership fees to generate income for the forum
• Establish income generating activities to build capacity and increase sustainability
• Improved access to loans for forum members

Community Development & Civil Society Building
2010:
• Expanded partnerships with public schools and training institutes
• Increase in community outreach activities
• Increased community understanding and support of the forum’s work
2011:
• Expansion of activities to new communities
• Introduction of literacy classes for women
• Modify activities based upon the needs of the targeted communities
• Positive promotion of the forum among targeted communities
• Change in the social attitude towards girls participating in civic activities
• Increased circulation of newsletters to increase awareness on issues of concern such as women’s rights, girls education and negative impacts of early marriage
2012:
• 20 private sector companies supporting the forum through in kind and monetary donations
• Partnerships created with literacy education department and expansion of literacy classes to more communities
• Official recognition of all awareness sessions by the Ministry of Education
• Considerable change in the social attitudes toward women’s’ work on civic issues
• Improved self-confidence and ability to tackle negative social norms for Yemeni women
• Increased participation of women in volunteer work

How many people will your project serve annually?

1001‐10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

An impact on public policy is a side effect of many forum activities, especially civil society building activities. Through their efforts, the women are working to change attitudes and create change in Yemen from the bottom up. For example, the Forum branch in Hadramout lobbied for and received official Accreditation from the Ministry of Education to conduct workshops in public high schools. Likewise, the forum branch in Hodiedah is conducting awareness session on discrimination against HIV patients, a very taboo subject, especially among women. The forum chapter in Yareem visited households that have disabled children to inform them of the services available to their children. This knowledge contributed to changing the parents’ attitudes toward their handicapped kids as they started to allow them to go to training and to realize they do not have to feel ashamed of their disability.

Sustainability
What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?

Yes

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation

• Allow women to continue to find job/internships opportunities
• Continued funding for activities, website hosting, trainings, printing of promotional materials, etc.
• Expansion to new areas
• Raise profile of the forum and its credibility/legitimacy
• Sponsorship of activities such as the blogging competition
• Collaboration in training activities through volunteering to train for free

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

• Supplemental Grant from the Women in Technology Program ($4,900) paid in August 2008 and January 2009 – this money goes towards activities, hosting the website, maintaining the employment database, printing and distributing promotional materials and newsletters, covering transportation costs, etc.
• Outreach to gain support from the Yemeni public/private sector
• Several projects at SOUL are operated on a cost-recovery model and excess funds are sometimes used to support Forum activities

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The forum was established in 2006 as a way to expand the work started by the Women in Technology Program (WIT). To provide a way for WIT graduates to stay connected with one another, put into practice their IT skills, continue to acquire new skills, raise awareness on the importance of IT and to create a network of women seeking to better Yemeni society.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

The idea was started by the Women in Technology Program, as one of its components, however the activities, extent and diversity of the topics the members are involved in was an innovation of the WIT team in Yemen. The team guided the process of the forum and encouraged members to hold elections, conduct awareness sessions and use their newly acquired IT skills to design flyers, newsletters, an employment database and a website. The continuous support and encouragement for the forum has enabled it to continue its activities, taking into account that volunteering is a new concept in the Yemeni society and it is hard for members of the forum to convince their parents to allow them to work for free. Parents always want a return of the money they spend on their daughters’ education. Further, it took a lot of effort from the WIT team and the forum members to convince public and private sector institutes that the forum was a legitimate entity in its own right; that its activities aim to raise awareness of the targeted communities and involve its members in civic work to enable them share their knowledge and skills for the best benefit of the community.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another source, please provide the information

We heard about the program from our colleagues who work on the Women in Technology for the Middle East and North Africa Program

ICRW
Does your project address any of the following barriers to women’s technology access and use?

Social norms, Economic or institutional constraints.

If you checked any of the boxes above, please explain how.

Social Norms –
• Increase the involvement of women in IT, a field that is dominated by men in Yemen
• Enhance women’s skills so that they can enter the workforce and advance their education
• Increase overall involvement in society – network and work outside of the home
• Increase women participation in community activities
• Promote volunteerism
Economic and Institutional Constraints
• Arm women with the skills and know how to enter the job market and start their own businesses – this in turn will enable them to earn more money and purchase technologies such as computers, mobile phones, etc.
• Provide the space for women to access IT training in an acceptable environment and at a reasonable fees

Does your project involve women in one or more of the following stages of the technology lifecycle? Identification of the problem the technology will solve:

Technology training, Creation and maintenance of market linkages for women's economic outputs.

If you checked any of the boxes above, please explain how you will ensure women’s involvement in each relevant phase of the technology lifecycle.

Technology Training –
• Provides women with trainings in ICT applications
• Provides women with a chance to use and practice their IT knowledge – create forum newsletters and promotional materials, work on the forum website, teach other women their skills, etc.
• Training enhances the members’ employability and skill needed to start their own businesses
• Training build women self-confidence thus encourage them to apply for jobs

Creation and maintenance of market linkages for women’s economic outputs -
• Employment database directly connects the women with job opportunities
• Outreach to public/private sector
• Allows the women to form groups and provides them with the tools to start small enterprises

If women are a focus of your project, how did this focus evolve?

The project focused on women from its conception..

Which type of women will your project reach directly?

Rural, Peri-urban, Urban, Low income, Middle income.

In what ways does your project team/leadership involve women?

It is led by a woman/women., It is led by a woman/women from a developing country., The core project team includes women., The core project team includes women from developing countries..

Has your organization formed any new partnerships in response to this challenge? If so, with what type/s of organization/s?

Non-profit/NGO/community-based organization, For-profit, Government, Women's organization.

Has your project leadership had prior experience with the following?

Working with women, Working with technologies, Working to increase women's economic empowerment through technology, Working on innovation.