By Eimear McNamara, ICT Communication Assistant, Geneva
Every day, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is used in ground-breaking ways to improve the lives of millions around the world. UNHCR is at the forefront of developing and implementing cutting-edge ICT solutions to provide effective and lasting assistance and protection to people forced to flee their homes. Today, on International Girls in ICT Day, we observe the invaluable contribution women make to the work of UNHCR, through ICT.
“Within UNHCR, women are central to providing ICT tools, coordination, and technical solutions to headquarter and field staff,” says Doug Greene, Chief Information Officer and Director of the Division of Information Systems and Telecommunications (DIST). “Their dedication and expertise is key to ensuring the successful delivery of UNHCR’s ICT ambitions.”
In her role as Senior ICT Assistant with UNHCR Iran, Negin Jobedari knows that these ambitions go beyond the merely technical: “ICT is a field of creativity and innovation. It’s not just about technology, but also about coming up with solutions to solve problems and help people.”
Fluberta Koroveshi-Karaxha, Senior Regional ICT Officer for Asia and the Pacific, “found it fascinating to know how technology could ease human life, and loved the feeling of being able to help others through my knowledge. I always smiled at their reaction: ‘wow…you do have magic fingers!!’”
Although ICT has traditionally been seen as a male-dominated sector, Dieynaba Ben Messaoud, ICT Associate for UNHCR West Africa, recalls being spurred on by this: “it was a challenge…in high school, I did not like to hear that such disciplines were for boys.” Naila Shahbazova, ICT focal point with UNHCR Azerbaijan, agrees: “I want to be valued for my individual qualities and I have never thought that men and women are so different. My main target was to support people.”
Through their work with UNHCR, female staff are helping to transform perceptions of ICT, including Joan Opio, Senior IT Assistant for UNHCR Uganda: “I can see the mind-set of people beginning to change when they encounter me on the job…I have gained so much respect from the world around me, and I have had parents ask me to provide mentorship to their daughters.”
Despite some long days and challenging operating environments, the women working in ICT have benefited enormously through personal and professional development. “My organization and the ICT heads that have supervised me in UNHCR saw my potential and have given me the opportunity to excel,” says Joan. “I’m proud to say they have made me shine in this career.”
And their advice for any young women out there who may be considering joining the ICT sector?
“Be ambitious about what you want to achieve out of a career, be a go-getter and listen to your inner self,” Joan recommends. “I am here now motivating other young women so that we can shine equally with the men in ICT. Yes, it requires a lot of your time in terms of input, however it’s an ideal career for every young woman out there.”
Negin is equally enthusiastic: “If you are interested in a creative, innovative, stimulating career field and having a lot of fun and excitement along the way, please join the ICT sector!”
“We can’t control people’s expectations of us,” adds Naila. “Young women should be encouraged to ignore what is popular or traditional, and just follow the thing that they are actually yearning to do.”
Dieynaba agrees, urging women and girls to remember that “there is no work reserved for a specific gender…love sciences and they will love you.” Although there may be challenges, Fluberta says, she firmly believes that “where there is a will, there is always a way! It has worked for me.”
The rewards for taking this approach are clear to Joan: “I feel like a superstar and I’m proud of what I do.”
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) International Girls in ICT Day aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICTs, enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector. Join the Twitter conversation using #GirlsinICT.