Today, on International Women’s Day, One Digital World honors and recognizes our incredible women graduates who have taken advantage of ODW’s unique curriculum to transform their lives through digital education.
What is it like to be a woman in a refugee camp? Like many women in the world today, it means that your primary job is to take care of your family. More than half of all women worldwide don’t hold formal employment; but this doesn’t mean they don’t work. According to the United Nations, women still do the “lion’s share” of domestic and unpaid labor: taking care of children, cooking, cleaning, washing, and maintaining the home (or temporary shelter, if they’re in a camp). But when Casey Myers arrived as a volunteer for Glocal Roots in Samos in 2019, at the heart of the European refugee crisis, she found that 100% of women who were asylum seekers there wanted to learn how to use computers so that they could get jobs and support their families financially. The desire was there; they just needed the opportunity. So, Casey teamed up with a couple of refugee women and got to work setting up their learning space.
Two weeks later, they had built a computer lab, classroom, and typing center across the street from a local women's only shelter. Within four months, over 200 women refugees and asylum seekers had graduated from the three-week, cohort style courses. Most had never even turned on a computer before. But by the end of each course, they had certificates, skills, and most importantly, confidence. Now, our graduates are doing amazing things, like using Zoom to connect with English teachers in America and aspiring towards careers in computer engineering.
Graduates like Rehana, who arrived in Samos after a difficult and dangerous journey from Afghanistan. “I think in today’s society, people should know how to work with a computer. Unfortunately, in my country, due to the lack of sufficient facilities, most women in my community do not know how...That’s why I wanted to learn.” In Samos, Rehana worked her way up from being a computer basics student to Teaching Assistant. Now, she plans to become a computer engineer.
“Making minicomputers was very interesting to me because I was building a computer for the first time. [Also], in the past it was very difficult for me to type with a computer. Now I type much more easily.”
Rehana has been waiting in Greece for her second asylum interview since 2017. She also recently became a new mom. Yet despite these challenges, she still finds time to study English and keep up her computer skills in her free time. "I felt good that I could be one step closer to my dreams, because I would like to study computer engineering in the future," she says.
Rehana is one of hundreds of women asylum seekers who is using what she learned in One Digital World’s computer course to improve her life and prepare for a smoother, quicker transition to self-sufficiency after resettlement. Many asylum seekers wait years for resettlement. That’s why this time is crucial for education and training; especially for women like Rehana.
Since 2020, our work building computer labs and training asylum seekers in digital literacy has brought us closer to home, as we direct our attention to the crisis at the US-Mexico border. Yet on International Women’s Day, and every day, it’s important to remind ourselves that women asylum seekers still face the challenges of gender inequity in addition to their long path to asylum. Part of our mission is to close that gender gap, level the playing field, and set our participants up for long-term success, one student at a time.
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