Code on the Road: Empowering Women and Girls through Mobile Business Entrepreneurship and Software Training

Aya Burweila

Athens, Greece
Promotional URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iplNs2RtqHo&feature=youtu.be

Provide a summary of the concept, how it works/could work, and why it could be successful

“Code on the Road: Empowering Migrant Women and Girls through Business
Entrepreneurship and Software Training” is a winning program designed to empower
migrant and native women and girls through software and business entrepreneurship
training in both Athens and Amman.
Since 2011, the wars in Syria and Libya have sparked a large scale refugee crisis. In
Greece, the total number of refugees is over 40,000 while in Jordan, there are over 1.5
million refugees who have fled conflict and strife. In countries like Libya, which is where we
wish to scale up our operations, the civil war that followed decades of oppressive rule and
isolation has killed entrepreneurship and stunted educational development in the field of
STEM while also creating almost half a million internally displaced Libyans. In such a
critical post-conflict condition job market integration is a crucial foundation that can have
strong benefits not only for migrant women themselves but also for their children, family
members and society at large. At the same time, local authorities around the world
struggle with ICT skills gap and there is a sharp shortage of women with software skills.
Nonetheless, women consistently receive messages both implicit and explicit that
computer science and entrepreneurship is not a field for them. Our solution, with our
distinguished local partners is to provide beneficiaries with a two-pronged and
complementary solution: 1) Code on the Road mobile training courses in business
entrepreneurship, and 2) Software and coding workshops to teach beneficiaries the basics
of what they need to launch their virtual businesses.
Our holistic program will be available in both Arabic and English and accessible to both
native and migrant women in Benghazi, Libya to further promote integration and equality.

Explain briefly the specific problem(s) you are trying to solve, and how your solution impacts or will impact the region

The problems we wish to solve are the lack of entrepreneurial mentality, expertise and
opportunity in Libyan society after decades of government suppression and ensuing wars
(NATO intervention and the subsequent civil wars). I believe that as the environment has
improved in Benghazi, Libya, it is important that we educate and train women to take
advantage of the opportunities that will be available to Libya and to empower them with
the skills and mindsets to create opportunity for themselves.
Our consultations with girls and women in the Libyan community uncovered that while
women wish to participate fully in the economy, and recognize the incredible importance
of information technology and business skills for their integration into the job market, and
aspire to realize their own business ventures, they also identified a number of genderspecific
barriers (mainly security-related and cultural). These barriers restricted their
mobility and ability to take advantage of educational initiatives on offer and therefore gain
the skills and experience necessary to compete in the job-market and placed them at a
disadvantage relative to their male counterparts, resulting in the male dominant profile of
most Information Technology graduates and professionals.
Furthermore, the girls and women consulted cited a number of gender-specific barriers to
learning that aim to solve, including:
(a) the problematic security situation and the related concerns of their parents/guardians,
(b) the general lack of public transportation and the constant dependency on others, in
many cases, for their transportation to, and from workshops,
(c) the importance of location: most girls mentioned that their participation would be
conditioned on the location of the venue where project activities are hosted. It should not
be too distant from their home, and preferably located in a central location in Benghazi in a
middle-class, and more affluent zone. This can be related with the girls’/women’s constant
concern for their personal safety.
(d) the “reputation” of the area/venue in which training was delivered was also considered
important to some of the girls consulted in preparation of the survey. Some participants
would not want to be associated with a space or organisation that could be associated
with values deemed socially controversial, for example, where mixing between genders
was not sufficiently regulated, or unprofessional.
(e) the challenge of timing: workshops would preferably take place during the morning
time during the scholastic break, and preferably end before sunset. This again is related to
the concern with female personal safety in Benghazi, and the social stigma attached to being outside the home after dark in some families/communities.
Given these barriers most participants mentioned they would “self-educate” on
entrepreneurship and IT skills via online platforms such as YouTube and, in some cases,
via online courses. Some of those consulted had the opportunity to participate in
workshops on business skills. However, these opportunities were deemed scarce. This is
one of the main reasons why COR believes that mobile training program is an innovative
and effective way to circumvent the concerns described above and deliver to women the
education they desire, deserve and need.
Our solutions will impact women and the region in the following ways:
1. Our women and girls will be empowered with both the knowledge, mindset and
support network to establish their own businesses, make themselves more competitive in
the labor market, and be inspired to pursue STEM studies further;
2. The program will set an example in the local community and the region on the
importance of empowering women’s integration in the labor market and promote and
encourage the necessity of female autonomy and agency, which in turn will place them in
a better position to advocate and protect their human rights;
3. The program will create a network of women (locally, regionally, nationally, and
internationally) who can show solidarity and provide mutual transfer of skills, experience,
mentorship and opportunity to one another and to future students of the COR program.
In the long-term, job and business creation will help rebuild economic activity in the city
and help the city to open up to the world, both economically and culturally. Benghazi is a
key city in Libya which has suffered terribly over the last 8 years and is continually
neglected by international organisations. It has a population of girls and women who are
desperate to take advantage of any opportunity to learn, innovate and establish
businesses.

Geographical Scope: where is the innovation currently operating/where would it first be applied and where would it scale?

We currently operate in Athens, Greece and Amman, Jordan and wish to scale it to
Benghazi, Libya with the aim to also scale to Lebanon.

Please state the current status of your initiative

Development stage   Active initiative   Ready to scale up

Beneficiaries: Explain who would benefit from this solution and indicate whether you would be working with a local partner or organization to implement (if so,specify)

The primary beneficiaries of this project will be the female Libyan community in Benghazi.
Secondary beneficiaries will be local migrants. We expect to educate women and girls in
Benghazi on the fundamentals of business entrepreneurship through our COR business
entrepreneurship mobile training course, on web design basics and launching your own
online business through workshops and introduction to coding. The target age group is 16
and above but we will not put a ceiling on the age of girls attending and we intend to make
exceptions for 15 year-old girls who show the desire and willingness to learn. We will
access these beneficiaries directly through our local partner Eureka, but also through our
local civil society and tribal networks, the Benghazi European School, as well as through
our wider communications plan and networks of local and international partners and
universities.
Our local partner is the social enterprise Eureka (eureka.ly) Eureka Services is a leading
Libyan business-consulting social enterprise with emphasis on helping start-ups and
SMEs to grow and flourish. Eureka’s business model is based on leveraging a network of
local and international consultants to offer clients a high quality bundle of tailored
services to meet their needs and requirements. Eureka believes in active partnership and
instilling an innovative and open business environment in Libya that is specifically
designed to increase entrepreneurship and creativity.
We will create the COR mobile course with the Amman-based companies Salalem and
Kindian, which specialize in online learning technology tools and educational platforms. In
Lebanon, in the long term, we will work with the Amel Association, a leading organisation
working in various critical areas for social change and human rights.
Our tertiary beneficiaries will be the local community at large as we believe a community
with strong female role models contributes to the health of society. This is particularly
important in the city of Benghazi, where strong female role models and activists such as
Salwa Bughaighis were brutally assassinated by Islamist militias who then took control of
the city. Such tragic incidents in the past, which was unheard of in Libyan history,
traumatized the community and intimidated women in particular from pursuing their
vocations. Now that the city has been secured, it is important to begin a robust revival of
women’s rights in Benghazi before toxic sentiments of fear and hopelessness become
entrenched in society. Furthermore:
• Women who successfully complete our program will be connected to potential
employers and freelance contractors in IT hubs in the country, and across the Middle East
and Europe. A strong careers advisory emphasis will facilitate a smoother transition to
employment and freelancing contracts.
• Our beneficiaries will have access to our online and offline network of mentors and
will belong to a Facebook COR community group where they can exchange ideas and
support one another.
• We will use the network of those who have finished the program to encourage others
in their immediate networks to join future programs and select some to be project
ambassadors to the NGO and donor organizations.
• Create an alumni network that maintains collaborative and motivational support and
whose success in their career paths will reflect on the effectiveness of the program to
others as role models in their communities.
• We will also connect beneficiaries in Benghazi, Athens and Amman to each other via
our Facebook page for community and solidarity building. We hope this will facilitate
future cooperation and exchange of ideas between the three local networks. This solidarity
will be a powerful tool for motivation and for advancement of ideas, opportunities and
solutions.
• Finally, following the success of our project in Athens and Amman, and with the aim to
scale our operations to provide more women in Benghazi with our program, we also aim to
target women in other Libyan cities such as Misrata and Sebha. Due to our negative risk
analysis of the current security situation in Tripoli, we have excluded Tripoli for the time
being. In the longer term, we also wish to scale our operations to Lebanon as well.

Describe the scalability and innovation elements of your initiative

What makes this solution innovative is both the mode of education and the target
audience themselves. Arabic business entrepreneurship mobile training course has not yet
been piloted in North Africa, let alone Libya, and particularly East Libya, which had been
historically neglected not only by the Gaddafi regime but also by the post 2011 leadership.
In Benghazi, this program will target female Libyans who have been almost entirely
neglected in the discourse of international humanitarian aid. Furthermore, the training
provides the skills and mindsets that beneficiaries can carry with them everywhere, to
home or to another country. We would like to stress that this program will be open to all
women and girls, regardless of Libyan citizenship as Benghazi is home not only to
internally displaced Libyans but also to migrant communities from Egypt and various other
African countries as well.
Also, our program has high and easy scalability precisely because of its innovative nature:
our program is delivered straight to women’s mobile phones, on-site sessions are once a
week, and the software training includes access to preexisting computer labs and schools
through workshops. While not all women have laptops or access to computers, almost all
women today have smartphones. We are flexible, and mobile and take into account
security and social conditions that may prevent women from attending class every day.
Our program makes learning accessible through its mobility and has the added benefit of
being highly adaptive.

Please state your innovation sponsor (if applicable)

United States State Department’s Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund.

What are your key resources at this stage and what resources would you need to implement/scale?

Our key resources include our winning formula, a dedicated international team, visibility
and wide network of partners and institutions in education, business, and tech in Europe,
MENA (including Libya) that are willing and able to provide our program with exposure,
technical know-how and infrastructural support for our onsite sessions and training as
well as mentorship to our beneficiaries. I myself am originally from Benghazi, Libya and
look forward to the opportunity to help my people rebuild their communities and economy
after the difficult war its citizens have experienced. I would need funding to create our own
mobile platform and country-specific education models in Arabic which will be more in
depth and take into account the specific laws, conditions, challenges and attitudes of the
MENA countries we wish to expand to. More specifically, and as a next step, we would also
like to expand our operations to Lebanon and other communities in MENA where for
whatever reason, women have little to no access to learning opportunities.

What are your key challenges and risks at this stage?

The following is the list of challenges and risks and how we plan to tackle them:
1. Select an easily accessible and centrally located venue;
2. To choose appropriate hours (during the day) to deliver project activities;
3. Arrange optional safe transportation for girls/women (with a consideration for those
living in more remote areas, and those with disabilities);
4. Encouraging “buy in” from tribal elders, parents and guardians through appropriate
communication activities and trust-building mechanism and human diplomacy;
5. The selection of the mobile education technology which circumvents security
concerns of women and girls by minimizing physical in-class time and minimizes both
security risks and cultural objections.

What are your goals and timeline?

Goal 1: To create and develop the content of our own MENA specific COR mobile training
application, and to develop the application itself and to test it (February to June 2020)
Goal 2: Implement the mobile training program (September-October-June 2020)
Goal 3: Launching online business and intro to coding workshops (November to December
3 1, 2020)
Our Implementation Plan and Timeline in more depth: We will implement the project over
the total duration of roughly twelve months, beginning one month after notification of
success. We expect to begin in Benghazi in February 2020 and complete the cycle by
December 31, 2020. The cycle will consist of: the 7-week mobile COR Business training
course and onsite sessions and three day COR business development workshops followed
by a two-day workshop in software tools, web design and launching your online business
for women. The number of our beneficiaries will depend on our funding. All on-site
sessions will take place in the Benghazi European School (https://www.bes-edu.org/)
PHASE 1: Research and creation of our business entrepreneurship mobile course and
online platform which will be created for us by the Amman based online education
platform for personalized learning, Salalem, and its sister company Kindian.
PHASE 2: A “Launch of Project” event will take place where we can communicate to the
wider public our project and invite stakeholders and the press. This will be organized by
COR and Eureka.
PHASE 3: Communication of our programs to our target audience and beneficiaries and
registration. Beneficiaries will register directly on the COR website page created for this
project. Duration: one month. All team members and local partners will participate in this
effort.
PHASE 4: Pre-Questionnaires will be shared with beneficiaries registered to participate in
the project to survey their attitudes towards work, career and the labor market prior to
beginning the COR training program.
PHASE 5: Implementation of COR program. Duration: 7 weeks (per cycle). Those registered
for the mobile course will also meet once a week for onsite facilitation meetings where
they can meet with the facilitators and business figures and receive guidance on their
modules and have their questions answered. Meetings will take place at the Benghazi
European School in Benghazi to be organized and supervised by COR and Eureka.
PHASE 6: The 7-week mobile training cycle in each country will be following by a three-day
COR workshop on entrepreneurial development by COR and Eureka. The end of this threeday
workshop marks the end of the COR business cycle. Certification will be provided at
the completion of this course.
PHASE 7: Two-day software training workshops for beneficiaries will be provided and take
place in the Benghazi European School. Beneficiaries will how to use code for web design
and how to launch their online business by professional trainers. They will also receive
certification at the completion of the workshop.
PHASE 8: Questionnaires will be shared with our beneficiaries to survey their attitudes
towards work, career and the labor market, along with their experience of the program, for
evaluation and feedback by COR and Eureka.
PHASE 9: Our participants will join the COR FB group where they can share with each other
relevant feedback. This group will be open from the beginning of the course so that
beneficiaries can network with one another and support each other. Our findings will also
go into an article that will be published as an online article as part of our communication
plan. We aim to share our findings generated from the program, whether deriving new
theoretical frameworks or reflecting on our experience, with the wider community of
professionals working in the field to ensure qualitative improvement in capacity building
initiatives in Libya and elsewhere.
PHASE 10: Communication and advocacy campaign to promote the successes of our
project and “DEMO DAY” event where we share with the public success stories and
findings of our program. All partners will contribute to the communications plan. The COR
program in Benghazi will receive media support from Libya’s Channel, the leading Libyan
television station, and its local news will also do extended profiles on the initiative in order
to increase awareness of the COR program nationwide among Libyan women and its
diaspora.
PHASE 11: Final report including qualitative and quantitative analysis of the project will be
jointly produced by COR and Eureka.

Why should this innovation be selected?

Benghazi has suffered from a continuous cycle of violent episodes since the 2011 and the
ensuing civil wars have regularly interrupted the prospects for economic growth and job
creation. For too long, the Libyan economy has remained highly reliant on the hydrocarbon
sector, and this is reflected in the premature stage of all other alternative sectors of the
economy.
Nonetheless, the private sector is gradually expanding with new ventures born in the city
at a fast pace with a need for potential competitive employees with the necessary
information technology and soft skills. It is important that women in Benghazi, who are
particularly disadvantaged and under-represented in the private job market, receive the
skills necessary for their full integration into their local labour market and to have the
opportunity to reach her highest potential. We believe that empowered women provide the
foundation for human rights, prosperity, and social cohesion for this generation and the
next.

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