About a year ago I attended my first hackathon
and I have been to a couple more since. I always enjoy going to hackathons and find them inspiring. Recently I went to a really special hackathon which I found worth writing about again.
The hackathon is called Empowerhack
and, unlike traditional hackathons, is not just about technology. This hackathon focusses on finding solutions for challenges that are faced by female refugees around the globe. Moreover, the projects that were started during the weekend aren't "done". We will continue working on them and possibly pass them on to the next Empowerhack to eventually really use them in the refugee camps, urban settlements or any other places where the projects could be used by refugees. Also, because this wasn't a regular tech hackathon, the people who attended Empowerhack were a lot more diverse. There were designers, front- and back-end developers, and also people who work in refugee camps. This last group of people was especially valuable because they had first-hand experience with female refugees, our target group, and so they could give us advice on how to make our projects most valuable.
I really liked how for this hackathon people were building something for others rather than work on their own technical portfolio or win a prize. At first, I had to get used to the fact that we were talking a lot rather than actually coding, but this really helped in determining the needs and situations of female refugees. Moreover, because we focussed a lot on content and we could ask questions to people who work with refugees, I feel like the projects are well on their way to being deployed in the real world.
My team created Coding for refugee women
, an informative website that encourages women to start coding and provides them with a lot of available on- and offline coding resources. This website is targeted at women who have reached their "final" destination and are ready to start thinking about a future in which they can work again. Not all women have worked before and others might not be able to continue the work they did because their diplomas and skills are not recognised in their new country of residence. Learning how to code can lead them towards new career opportunities. The reasons why we decided to focus on coding are firstly, because the three of us are all women who are very passionate about coding, secondly, you don't need any prior knowledge or skills to learn how to code, thirdly, the only thing you need is access to a computer, and lastly, coding is in high demand and so the chances are quite high that you will find a job if you know how to code.
The website is live, but it's still under development. At the moment, only part of the website is available in Arabic so we need to translate the rest and possibly translate it in other languages as well. We want to provide more extensive information and explanations about coding in general, and we also have some ideas about extending the website to a mentoring/buddy platform where women can find other women who'd like to help them learning how to code or follow courses together. I personally learned a lot about the refugee crisis and understand more about the problems especially female refugees are facing. It would be great to see the projects we started develop further and hopefully some of them will end up being used by refugees. If you feel passionate about helping refugee women as well, make sure to join the Empowerhack Facebook and I might see you at the next event :) (All photos by Will Edgecombe)
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