Curiosity Forges New Paths for Tajik Women in IT

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, February 10, 2021
An in-person programming training in Tajikistan
USAID's Future Growth Initiative

Growing up, Shakhlo was always trying something new – she dabbled in drawing, astronomy, physics, knitting, and more. She loved to learn, and it was this insatiable curiosity that led her to turn one of her hobbies into a career.

Before university, Shakhlo was a very basic computer user. Her first programming classes were challenging – but then she's always loved a challenge. She was also inspired by computer science teacher Shabnam Ashurova, a talented woman programmer who stood out in the male-dominated world of IT. “You can do anything,” Shabnam told Shakhlo. “You are capable of so much. The main thing is to work on yourself, develop skills, and keep improving.”

When it came time to specialize and choose a specific career path, Shakhlo took Shabnam’s advice to heart. She surveyed the field and decided to become a computer programmer. “I realized that there are great opportunities in the IT world, and that there are very few girls in this area,” Shakhlo explains. “I wanted to inspire other girls to choose IT too. But first, I had to thoroughly study programming myself and start working as a developer.”

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many traditional programs were suspended from meeting in-person, leaving Shakhlo with limited options. In September 2020, however, GoLang Alif Academy partnered with USAID’s Future Growth Initiative to launch an online instructional course in programming; one of the goals of the course was to recruit more women into the IT sector.

“Gender stereotypes and the absence of women in the information technology sector are factors that hinder the development of IT in Tajikistan,” says Zarina Rachabova, Head of Alif Academy. “Alif Academy courses give women the opportunity to understand the role of information technology in the modern world, believe in their abilities and achieve success in this area. We are grateful to USAID for not only supporting the IT sector, but for also bringing more women into the field.”

Shakhlo saw the Alif Academy course announcement on social media and registered immediately. “The GoLang course exceeded all my expectations: it had excellent presentations of the material, videos with detailed lectures, constant support in the work chat–it was fun and exciting.”

Yet despite the engaging format, Shakhlo experienced a number of challenges along the way. “It was difficult to do homework on time and meet deadlines. There were mistakes that I could not fix on my own. The course trainers and other participants helped me.” She also learned some unexpected skills along the way–not only did the training introduce her to one of the most popular programming languages, but it also sharpened her communication and presentation skills.

“Students have a fear that they may not be noticed or appreciated by potential employers, and that they will not be able to find work on their own,” says trainer Ilnaz Giliyazov. “Therefore, the purpose of the classes is to help young people overcome fears and doubts, be able to present themselves during an interview, and be inspired to find a job and grow in their careers.”

Shortly after completing the GoLang course, Shakhlo landed the job she wanted most–a junior developer position with Alif Bank. “Thanks to USAID and Alif Academy for giving me the opportunity to study programming and find my own path and my profession. I became more resilient and understood one wonderful thing: to improve yourself, you need to help others. Now I will try to contribute to the development of IT in Tajikistan,” Shakhlo declared.

Shakhlo dreams of becoming a top programmer in the country and demonstrating that women can be successful in the IT field. Shakhlo also hopes to actively recruit more girls and women into IT. Too often, she says, she sees stereotypes scare talented women away from the field. “There were 31 students who graduated from GoLang, and only three girls among them. I want to show by my example that girls can also be in demand in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] professions. I also want to actively work with girls so that they can go more boldly and confidently into this field.”

Last updated: April 22, 2021

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