Photo credit: Jordan News Agency (Petra)
Last week, five Jordanian women won the best tech project in the United States, as part of TechWomen, among twenty-one teams from different counties!
TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) that empowers and supports emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from across the world including the Middle East. Every year in the United States, TechWomen organizes a competition through the Seed Grant for emerging women leaders. The chosen women gather with mentors for the Pitch Day to present their ideas and discuss their solutions for socio-economic problems in their countries. Then, winners are chosen and awarded the Seed Grant.
Team Jordan was the winner for this years TechWomen! The team consists of entrepreneurs and experienced business women, and their project focuses on the education of orphans in Jordan. The women, Nour Altobasi, Aseel Al-Musa, Dhelal Mubarak, Alaa Karss and Hiba Shabrouq, will create an educational platform for orphans with the goal of enrolling them into universities.
Jordan Business Magazine was lucky enough to sit down with two of the winners, Nour Al-tobasi and Aseel Al-Musa.
JBM: Congratulations on your big win! I’m sure our readers would like to know how it all started.
Nour: At first, we needed to work with our Impact Coaches on a social project and solve a socio-economic problem in our country, Jordan.
Aseel: Then, eventually, we felt that orphans were the most neglected part our community. There's not much light shed on them, we needed to pay more attention to their education, problems, and lives. Maybe there have been other projects that tried to address this part of society, but it's either been unprofessional or not done in the way we wanted to do it.
JBM: When you were up on the stage on the pitching day, did it cross your mind that "we could really win"?
Nour: When Hiba and I were on stage, we tried to do the pitching in a professional manner. Hiba told the audience a touching story of an orphan that helped them relate to the orphans in Jordan. Then I gave them the facts, the numbers, possible solutions, timelines, implementation and potential partners that would be associated with.
Aseel When we first started the program, we wanted to go back to Jordan holding the prize! We were stressed at the beginning, of course, especially because we used to work on the project after our working hours. This project took so much time and effort. But then, after we decided our idea and submitted everything, we were really convinced of what we had done. On pitching day, when we finished, we started crying! We were touched by the story, and proud of what we accomplished.
JBM: So all of you worked on this as "one team"?
Aseel: Yes, that was the most important part of this whole thing, Team Spirit! Before even doing any type of projects, we wanted to represent Jordan. So if we couldn't act as a team we wouldn't deserve to win or be a part of this.
JMB: I think that you have represented Jordan very well with your positivity!
Nour: Thank you. We got this reputation in America as the happy team! The Jordanian team was always motivated. We tried to emulate the best parts of Jordan and show others what real Jordanian are about.
Aseel: Yeah, and like I said, It was our first and foremost mission to represent Jordan and give people a new perspective of our creative community, so, that was our biggest mission, and I think we did it right.
JBM: How long did it take you to come up with this project?
Nour: The whole program takes 3 weeks. The first week was all about orientation and getting to know everything. During the second week, we focused on the project and came up with the problem, solution, potential partners and how every one of us could contribute to project. In addition, we had to do all of that in parallel with other aspects such as the cultural events and meetings, it was a lot of pressure.
JBM: What's your future vision? And how many orphan girls were you be able to enroll in universities after you were awarded 3000$?
Aseel: Basically, the project does not only aim to raise the number of orphans enrolled in universities. We are planning to give them training and workshops that are based on our own experience. We will build a platform to create a community where they can learn.
JBM: So, is it's like a 2-part project?
Nour: Yes, we're trying to do a capacity and personality development for the orphans, and then we're going to be linking them with sponsors. In the future, we will hold a competition, and the winners will be awarded scholarships to study at universities. So, the 2017 Seed Grant will give us a push to start, then we can escalate it up. Every one of us can add a huge value to the orphan’s lives, we are entrepreneurs and have experience in the market.
Shereen Nidal Nanish