Toppled: A unique tech exhibition, was an attempt to break stereotypes and incorporate madrasah girls into mainstream platforms by displaying their talents in the field of technological education i.e. computer programming. The event, organized by Leaping Boundaries, took place on Thursday, 22nd June 2017 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the EMK Centre.
90 girls from 3 different madrasahs were selected to demonstrate games that they have developed using their knowledge of coding. 30 of them were present at the event. The games themselves were extraordinarily creative and showcase 5 different social issues. This exhibition was therefore an opportunity to celebrate the amount of creativity and critical thinking that each of these young developers have put in to come up with these fun and interactive games, and provided a gateway to better understand their interests and capabilities.
Leaping Boundaries is a project that aims to increase visibility of girls aged 12-16 studying in madrasahs, focusing on capacity building by training them in English Language, Soft skills, Collaborative Tech Reasoning and by providing them Psychosocial support and afterwards, connecting them to various platforms. For the past six months Leaping Boundaries has been focusing on technological education under it’s Collaborative Tech Reasoning component. Supported by the EMK Centre, through a partnership with the Tech Academy and THRIVE, girls from Madinatul Ulum Model Women’s Kamil Madrasah, Al-Amin Islamia Madrasah and Gausia Islamia Madrasah received training from volunteer trainers from various universities in Dhaka.
“My teaching experience in Gawsia, was a dynamic two way process. Although i was the teacher most of the time, I learned a great deal from their perseverance and enthusiasm to gain knowledge. Their passion and dedication throughout this time inspired me to grow as a person and push the envelope to learn more. My experience at the gawsia taught me with the opportunity, anyone can excel at anything given the will power and dedication regardless of their background.” said Sayemin Azam, Volunteer Trainer and student at BRAC University.
The training in computer programming was followed by workshops on five different social organizations who serve as local experts in the field i.e. Identity Inclusion, which works psychosocial disability, Buckets Engineer, which works with autism, Wheelchair Crickets Association, which works in the intersection of sports and disability, Bohnishikha which works on gender and gender awareness issues, and Criticalink which works on road safety. Based on these five issues, the girls were divided into smaller groups of 20 further subdivided into beginner, intermediate and advanced level. Each group then coded an animation or game based on their skill level and issue of concern.
All of this was no easy feat. “We were sent to three different madrasas, in three locations quite far away from each other, to teach the girls coding, animation and games based on various social problems. Though we encountered some difficulties for the lack of equipments, with shortage of accommodation and time, the girls were very enthusiastic and eager to learn no matter what. At the end, it all came together and our collective efforts were shown beautifully during the exhibition. And the girls showed that given the slightest chance they can conquer the tech sector!” says Umme Mim Mohsin, Volunteer Trainer and student at the University of Dhaka.
This event exhibited the young talents and their games as well as their resilience and passion as a result of their training.
Leaping Boundaries was first initiated in 2012 after reading an article on the Star Campus that highlighted the challenges faced by Alia madrasah students. Initially it was a language and leadership development programme that focused on building English Language skills. The project came to an abrupt halt in 2013 because of political crisis. It was then that it was identified that the challenge faced by the sector was not a lack of English language skills but a lack of platforms where they were not able to represent themselves. Hence it was redesigned and relaunched in February 2014 with a new goal, a new set of volunteers and two new madrasahs. The project has successfully represented students on several platforms since then and is still ongoing.