A team of young Afghan women coders is taking the gaming world by storm, as they take their programming knowledge into designing games that fight inequality and opium – among other awesome feats. For these girls, The Princess will be rescuing Mario, no matter how many castles they have to go through.
In the Afghan city of Herat, no one would suspect these 20 young women are actually hardcore computer experts – beyond their programming knowledge is a technical know-how on tracking bugs, designing websites, and building apps. Most importantly, however, they pride in their ability to make games. In fact, they already created and released 20 games on digital app stores this 2018.
The initiative, named Code to Inspire, has been on the limelight after competing in a United States-based robotics competition last year. Now, the girls have proved their coding skills can be tapped into making meaningful yet entertaining software. This presented a huge opportunity for the Afghan teens, who finally proved to the world that Afghan women have got what it takes when given the opportunity.
Code to Inspire project manager Hasib Rasa was the one teaching her female students how to code. She said her team is building and showing a career path for women to take, as coding – despite its lucrative nature for various industries – can even be learned and done at home.
Fight Against Opium: Just one of many games
A particular game that got the attention of viewers, developers, and gamers alike, is called “Fight Against Opium.” The all-female team had designed the game in a way that illustrates the trials and tribulations Afghan security forces had to face when combating the threat of opium cultivation. Part of the gameplay includes taking Afghan soldiers in animated missions in order to convince farmers to grow saffron, fight drug lords, and destroy opium fields.
It can be remembered that Afghanistan is in fact the largest source of opium in the world. It is at the same time a huge source of saffron, considered the world’s most expensive spice. Unfortunately, opium production hit a whopping 87-percent increase from 2016 to 2017 despite a ban on its farming.
Afghan officials have been pushing farmers to farm these instead of farming opium, and now Code to Inspire has taken up the same mission as well. Khatira Mohammadi, one of the students who helped develop the aforementioned anti-opium game, said she wanted to find a way to show just how complex the drug problem is – albeit, in a simple manner.
One step for Afghan women, a giant leap for Afghan society
At Code to Inspire, aside from the 20-strong team of gamer-coders, more than 90 women are also being trained in software development and coding. Such a course is still deemed unconventional for much of Afghanistan’s conservative society, as women working outside houses are expected to be house helpers, midwives, doctors, nurses, and teachers.
It was only after the ouster of the Taliban back in 2001 that women had regained a measure of freedom to work on the same level with their male colleagues, including being able to work in offices. For some, perhaps being a software developer is taking it too far.
Not for Hasib Rasa, as she constantly encourages these women to design original obstacles, goals, and characters that reflect the ethos of Afghanistan. The coding course in Code to Inspire is exclusively for women ages 15 to 25, especially those who can’t afford four-year degrees or from families that don’t allow them to go to co-education institutions.
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