SheTech is the first ever group from Swat Valley — an area once controlled by the Taliban — focusing on digital security and the use of technology to end gender-based violence. The group was formed by Ms. Tahira Muhammad — a 17-year-old orphan living in rural Swat, Pakistan — who is striving to change the world through technology. Despite the struggle of her circumstances and the constant slew of hardships and obstacles she has faced, she never lost sight of her goals, pursuing an education and working to understand and master the tools of technology which she saw with so much potential.
Tahira's father left her family when she was an infant, citing his desire for a son as the reasoning behind his abandonment. Her mother did her best to support the family after that, but when she fell ill, Tahira was forced to take on domestic jobs herself, washing, cleaning, and caring for others in order to make ends meet. Despite discouragement from her family, and even falling seriously ill herself, she still continued to attend school, toiling long hours and moving steadily through the grades while paying her own tuition.
She described the motivation behind her efforts: "Throughout my schooling, I was fascinated with emerging ideas and the use of technology, and I dreamed of using tech to address gender-based violence. That’s why I continued my struggle and learning so that I could one day use my IT skills to address issues of violence against girls and women."
To this end, Tahira formed SheTech, a group dedicated to supporting the advancement of the rural women and girls of Swat in Technology while making use of data to end domestic violence in the country. She has developed a very simple, easy-to-use online platform which was linked to the data collection process of a local Women's Rights Organization in order to map incidences of violence against women. In addition, she is developing a video game that seeks to change behavior by highlighting the importance of education for girls, while also warning of the dangers that they face in pursuing those goals. Eventually, she hopes to open the first all girls coding school in her district.
Though her work has just begun, Tahira has accomplished so much, overcoming tragic circumstances and constant discouragement to become an emerging young leader in the Pakistani tech scene. Through her work, she is empowering and educating the women of her region to make use of data, tech, and ICT to right wrongs and improve their lives, while also dedicating herself to inspiring the next generation of female engineers.
When asked what advice she had for others pursuing goals in the tech industry Tahira said, "Dream big, work hard and take one small step at a time to move forward."
Women Who Code is an international non-profit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. Our goal is to empower women with the skills needed for professional advancement, and provide environments for networking and mentorship. The organization has executed more than 5,000 events around the world, garnered a membership exceeding 100,000, and has a presence in 60 cities and 20 countries. Help us to empower even more women to advance in tech with the training and community they need to succeed by supporting our #WWCode networks. Learn more at womenwhocode.com.