Tomorrows generation of leaders and STEAM-hopefuls showing Lebanon that ‘Girls Got IT’

The UNICEF-supported ‘Girls Got IT’ educational series’ latest edition - hosted at USJ’s Human Sciences Campus - enabled 250 girls to join the movement and delve deeply into the world of innovation.

Simon Balsom
A group of girls is standing during Girls Got IT event, portraying their different work
UNICEF/Lebanon2019/RamzyHaydar

18 June 2019

With more than 3,000 girls in Lebanon already introduced to the world of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) through the UNICEF-supported ‘Girls Got IT’ educational series, this latest edition - hosted at USJ’s Human Sciences Campus - enabled 250 more to join the movement and delve deeply into the world of innovation.

Established in 2016, ‘Girls Got IT’ (GGIT) - a joint initiative between five Lebanese NGOs and led by the Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB) in collaboration with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), supported by UNICEF Lebanon, and funded by the German Government (KFW) - organises a regular series of workshops across the country in Beirut, Mount Lebanon, Tripoli, Akkar, Bekaa and Tyre.

Girls Got IT is one of the first phases of UNICEF’s Generation of Innovation Leaders Program (GIL) where students have access to hands-on workshops, talks by industry leaders, and tutorials to help the youth explore innovative new digital concepts.

More than 600 girls all seated during Girls Got IT in an amphitheatre
UNICEF/Lebanon2019/RamzyHaydar

It opened with a rousing call from Tanya Chapuisat, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon, who said, “You, the young women and girls of Lebanon, are the ones who are actually taking a brave step and making a difference”

The latest in the series of nationwide events was hosted at Beirut’s Pierre Abou Khater Theatre. Packed with children from schools across the city, each eager to prove themselves adaptable to challenges and energised to ensure their rise to success.

Grace Hard, GGIT Programme Director, reflected that “Girls Got IT is nothing without our participants and our students. They are our pride and our raison-d’être. In 2016, we started LLWB along with four other NGOs started the initiative in Dbayeh. In our first year we saw 461 students coming from public and private schools. In 2019, we worked with 3,579 students. The key foundation to GGIT are the workshops. By the end of 2016, we’d held 21 workshops sessions, and today we have hosted 169 workshops in total”.

Fadi Yarak, General Director of Education, greeted the students, and remarked upon them as the nation’s hope for the future. “We thank you for your commitment, we thank you for being here today to know the jobs of the future - and the future of jobs”.

"Dream big, believe in yourselves and your abilities. If I did it, so can you." Rola Hoteit.

Before the students began their all-important workshops, a series of specially invited speakers shared their inspirational stories with the girls. Each has made their own clear mark on Lebanon, and each is a natural role model in the sphere of women’s empowerment.  

Rola Hoteit, the first female airline pilot in Lebanon, has led a remarkable life by any measure. A passionate proponent of women’s and youth advocacy, she said, “Women are no longer dependent on others. They are dreamers, achievers, and fully independent and successful individuals”. Speaking directly to the girls, she implored them to “dream big, believe in yourselves and your abilities. If I did it, so can you”. To loud applause, she concluded, “And men, please it is time to recognize women as equally qualified individuals, give them opportunities, sit back and witness what they can accomplish”.

Actor and performer Zeina Daccache picked up on Rola’s insistence that success is a mindset that needs psychological capital in order to fulfil dreams. Talking openly about her challenges and achievements. “My message to you is very clear. Follow what you really want to aim for. Respect others’ opinions and comments but, in the end, do what you like and want, whether easy or difficult. This way, you can genuinely succeed in achieving your projects. Whatever it is, you can get it if you really want it”.

UNICEF representative Tanya Chapuisat smiling on GGIT stage while addressing the audience.
UNICEF/Lebanon2019/RamzyHaydar

Ella Sofhan, a graduate of the American University of Beirut, has been working at Microsoft for seventeen years. Supporting GGIT’s STEAM-led initiatives, she believes that “technology should empower people, and any machine should be built around the views of all segments, otherwise it will not be accessible to all. This is exactly why women need to expand their footprint in this industry. When we see platforms like Girls Got It, we see that we are not alone. This event is only the beginning for you. What you’ll see and what you’ll learn today is of great importance and you will learn that wherever you turn in future… we will be there to help you”.

The morning’s session, during which such inspirational stories were shared, highlighted to the students that every success was once merely an idea that started in someone’s mind. The workshops that followed served to reinforce this message.

 

GGIT participant holding her robot project
UNICEF/Lebanon2019/RamzyHaydar
GGIT participant focusing while working on her project
UNICEF/Lebanon2019/RamzyHaydar

The event closed with an awards ceremony, during which girls from each workshop were chosen as ‘stars’; these outstanding performers are then integrated into the GGIT Alumni Club. Currently consisting of almost 250 members, this confers an additional legacy for those selected, involving further conferences and mentoring.