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Who are the Tech Age Girls?

When we carried out small community projects, I realized that I was doing that along with eight other girls from my town. Other girls throughout the whole country were doing the same job simultaneously. And I felt my belonging to that movement” Dariya Azina, TAG 2011 (Picture © IREX).

By Myahriban Karyagdyyeva and Ari Katz, IREX

Tech Age Girls (TAG) are young leaders from eight different countries that have implemented over 400 service projects helping and reaching more than 10,000 people.  A Tech Age Girl is tech-savvy, an able leader that can make things happen, and equipped with the necessary skills, support and confidence for 21st century success.

According to a recent ITU report, the European Union calculates that in ten years, there will be 700,000 more Information Communication Technology (ICT) jobs than professionals to fill them; globally, that shortfall is estimated to be closer to two million. But access to the internet and tech careers continues to remain unequal and even in high income countries women only make up 20% of ICT specialists.

For more than 20 years, IREX has pioneered the integration of appropriate technology into development efforts. Through the Tech Age Girls project, implemented since 2005, IREX and its partners engage participants in intensive training in ICT, equipping them with the tools for academic and professional achievement and personal and civic self-expression. Through the program, participants develop key leadership skills for professional and academic life, ranging from business etiquette to personal time management. Tech Age Girls also meet influential women leaders in their communities and take part in mini-internships during the program.

As of today, over 1,300 girls have been trained and exercised their leadership and ICT skills through community projects through TAG in eight countries: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova, the Philippines and Vietnam.  Each project reaches an average of 30 people and touches on many aspects of community life, including public service, environment, and education. Community projects range in the issues they address. In Kyrgyzstan, a group of five Tech Age Girls trained political party representatives on new communication tools “I am only 16 years old, but I was able to work with politicians in our country….[After] working with female politicians, I know that politics is not only for men…“ noted one of the trainers, Svetlana Sheiko, a TAG participant in 2011. Angelika Orbeta, a Philippines TAG in 2012 implemented a project which deals with the importance of proper waste disposal and waste segregation in her hometown. Tran Le Khanh Linh, a 2012 TAG from Vietnam, organized trainings on leadership and basic IT skills for 60 of her classmates, while her fellow TAG peer Trinh Hoai Huong trained members of the journalism club at her school on creating digital stories.

Why does Tech Age Girls work?

TAG is effective because it works to empower girls within a community of support. Participants are self-selected throughout different stages of the project based on their participation, completion of projects and level of activity. The most dedicated participants are identified through this process and graduate to the final stage of the program. Tech Age Girls connects girls to women role models, places them in internships and plugs them into a vast alumni network and community. Technology is not taught for the sake of technology, but rather used as a tool for empowering girls, building their self-esteem, giving them confidence, and building connections through alumni networking. "TAG changed me a lot. It made me a more confident girl. It taught me a lot of to manage time, how to use technology, and it helped me to have more friends from everywhere from all over our country."  Linh, TAG Vietnam.

TAG creates equal opportunities for girls to use ICT in their societies. It is based on the recognition that in order to achieve meaningful success, efforts to improve girls’ potential must go beyond training and start creating an ecosystem in which skills can be maximized. This means addressing leadership and self-confidence, creating support networks, developing allies and advocates, and instilling an understanding of how to assess needs and conceive ways to address them in communities and in the business world.

Myahriban Karyagdyyeva (Mehri) is a Program Manager in the Civil Society Division of IREX. She works on a variety of IREX programmes that integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into educational, civil society development and institutional reform programmes in Eurasia.

Ari Katz is a Deputy Director for Technology and Civil Society at IREX. He heads IREX’s team that manages programmes integrating appropriate technology into development strategies.

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