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Tech Age Girls Turkmenistan by tdl18804

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									                      Tech Age Girls Turkmenistan
                                      February - August 2008
Administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board under the Supporting Technology in
                                        Education Program
Sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the U.S. Peace Corps, and the
                                     U.S. Department of State
                           The Tech Age Girls (TAG) project addresses the lack of skilled women in the
                           field of information technology (IT) by encouraging and training the most
                           promising young female computer specialists. Through a process in which
                           they have the chance to advance their skills, learn from successful female
                           leaders, and develop their own community projects, participants take their
                           first steps toward entering one of the most promising fields in the world
                           economy. IREX started the Tech Age Girls project in Turkmenistan in 2007
                           and administered a second round of the project from February through
                           August 2008.


OVERVIEW
From July 13 to 27, 2008, the efforts of the Tech Age Girls project (TAG) culminated in a two-week
conference for 15 outstanding young women throughout Turkmenistan who developed their IT and
leadership skills. These talented, driven girls have returned to their homes, where they are using their
new skills and experiences to implement projects that will benefit their communities. The TAG II
project, which began in February, is part of the Supporting Technology in Education Progran (STE)
funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and
administered by IREX. The TAG summer conference was funded through a grant from the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and a U.S. Peace Corps Small Project Assistance grant,
and was supported by Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) in Turkmenistan. Together, the TAG
implementing partners have laid the foundation for a talented group of young women to shape their
country’s future.

SELECTION PROCESS
TAG relies on a four-month selection process during which girls
gain leadership and technology skills and built relationships, both
online and in person. At the end of February, a selection
committee chose 44 semifinalists from a pool of more than 350
applicants – over two times the number of applicants in 2007 –
from Ashgabat, Balkanabat, Dashoguz, Mary, and Turkmenabat.
The candidates who demonstrated the most IT and leadership
experience, superior communication skills, and the best plans for
community service projects were chosen to begin three months of
training in computer and internet basics, graphics editing, Web
design, blogging, and academic research skills.
                                                                      Jennet from Ashgabat volunteering to
                                                                      teach leadership skills to young girls
Starting in March, PCV Stephanie York led TAG applicants
through exercises focusing on leadership and life skills using interactive activities and online seminars.
TAG II participant from Ashgabat Lina Ishenko used the STE online forum to comment on the leadership
workshop, “The leadership session helped me to reveal my inner qualities, to better know myself. To me,
a leader is a person who can listen and understand, consider all choices and make the right decision. A
leader must respect others’ opinions. I learned different management styles and that the main quality of
a real leader is confidence in his/her and the people’s power.”

COMMUNITY PROJECTS
The 44 TAG II semifinalists applied their new skills by organizing community service activities in
                                  conjunction with Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) and Earth Day
                                  (ED). They posted the results of their projects on an online forum
                                  through     the     STE     Turkmenistan     educational     portal
                                  (http://gcetm.net/forum/index.php? showtopic=137).         TAG II
                                  semifinalist from Dashoguz Zara commented, “On Global Youth
                                  Service Day we went to a kindergarten where we played with kids,
                                  taught them not to pollute nature and decorated their school. I
                                  found out that it is very important to protect nature and I helped
                                  the children to understand that too. Leadership qualities like
     Artwork of a student from    confidence and creativeness helped me to implement this activity.”
            Balkanabat
The Tech Age Girls semifinalists used their personal blogs to describe the activities they conducted in
their regions of the country (http://gcetm.net/blogs). For her blog, TAG II participant from Balkanabat
Kseniya Sherbakova chose to talk about the importance of volunteer work based on her own experience
at the Internet Access and Training Program (IATP) and at a local HIV/AIDS center. At IATP, Kseniya’s
responsibilities included registering and training new users, as well as
generating statistics reports. At the HIV/AIDS center, she conducted             “A female leader is
seminars on HIV/AIDS, smoking, drinking, drug abuse, and tuberculosis.       someone who is looking
By volunteering at IATP and at the HIV/AIDS center, Kseniya gained a          forward and not afraid
larger understanding of critical issues facing her community and others             to take risks.”
across the world. She noted, “Besides [focusing on] health problems, we
                                                                                  -Jemal, Ashgabat
want to work with other volunteers to make our youth aware of ecological
problems. During the summertime, I will organize HIV/AIDS summer
camps for children where they play educational games to discuss these problems. Children have to know
about such things because they are future generation of our country.”

DEVELOPING LOCAL CONTENT
                                                   By the end of May, the TAG II semifinalists completed
                                                   basic Web design training at IATP access sites and created
                                                   a total of 44 websites (http://gcetm.net/tagweb/). The
                                                   websites were dedicated to female leaders in
                                                   Turkmenistan, including the 20th century poet Tovshan
                                                   Esenova and the famous lawyer from Balkanabat Leyla
                                                   Berdikuliyeva. In order to gather information for the
                                                   websites, the TAG semifinalists interviewed prominent
                                                   women and conducted research online and at local
                                                   libraries. TAG II participant Maya Annaberdiyeva
                                                   researched Turkmen women in sports and wrote about
                                                   two of her country’s famous female athletes on her website
                                                   – Judo champion Nasiba Surkiyeva and 14-year-old tennis
  Web site on women in Turkmenistan created by TAG
                                                   star Anastasiya Prenko. In her interview with Maya, one
               II finalist Aylar Babayeva          of the athletes said, “To be a good sportsman you should
                                                   respect others and be respected by others. It’s also
important to be goal-oriented and have a strong will in order to be successful.”

Based on the TAG II semifinalists’ websites, blogs, volunteer projects, online discussion participation,
and overall potential, 15 TAG II finalists were chosen to participate in summer conference in Ashgabat.

SUMMER CONFERENCE
In July, under the guidance of STE staff, PCVs, and trainers
from international organizations, TAG II finalists spent two
weeks in Ashgabat, and underwent advanced training in IT
skills, leadership, project design, and professional
development. TAG II finalist from Turkmenabat Nigara
remarked, “For the time that I spent in camp I made many
friends and met woman leaders. The exchange participants
from the United States, Jim, Kenny, and Anna, taught us
Photoshop, PowerPoint, and Dreamweaver. The PCVs
taught us to work as a team and solve problems. TAG I
alumni told us about the first-ever TAG project in
Turkmenistan. By the end of the second week we were like a
team. We had a great experience.” While in Ashgabat, TAG
II finalists met with prominent women leaders from various           The director of a local photo studio Irina
backgrounds who shared with the future leaders of                  Velmuradova talks to the TAG finalists about
Turkmenistan their path to success and leadership                           professional development
experience.

During the second week of the conference, the TAG II finalists participated in their first real-world,
professional internships at international organizations, such as OSCE, the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs
Section, the U.S. Peace Corps, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations
Population Fund (UNFPA), IREX, and the Counterpart Consortium. During their five-day internships,
the Tech Age Girls applied their newly acquired skills to perform
administrative tasks and conduct presentations while teaching others    “I think that a modern woman
how to use technological tools, answer phone calls, and communicate      must have leadership traits
with visitors. US Embassy Public Affairs Section (PAS) intern Kseniya   like self-confidence, the ability
Utegenova, who worked at the Internet Resource Center remarked,            to inspire others, consider
“My work at the Center improved my ability to communicate with               others; opinions, listen,
others. Often, visitors didn’t want to obey the Center’s rules and give    understand, and give good
turns to other people. I had to gather all my patience and explain to                advice.”
them the importance of respecting others and following the rules.”             - Nastya, Ashgabat
The international organizations were impressed by the TAG II
finalists’ work and leadership skills.          The United Nations
Development Fund, the United Nations Population Fund, and the American Bar Association/Central
European and Eurasian Law Initiative offered extended internships at their organizations for three TAG
participants.

INFLUENCING AND HELPING THEIR COMMUNITIES
During the summer conference, the TAG II finalists each identified target audiences for their community
projects that they began implementing upon returning back to their home communities.

•   Sabina Ibragimova from Mary is leading a journalism club for teenagers to highlight their
    educational achievements, practice writing skills, and learn how to express their throughts.
•   Nigara Pirkuliyeva from Turkmenabat is teaching information technology to teachers who have
    computers at schools but lack knowledge on how to use technology in the classroom.
•   Anzhelika Temiryasheva from Dashoguz is training her peers on basic computer skills.
•   Futer Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX) finalist Lachin Italmazova is currently in the United States
    and is raising money to cover the shipping costs of old textbooks from the U.S. to her school in
    Turkmenabat.
•   TAG II alumni from Ashgabat are creating a Tech Age Girls global website, which will unite TAG
    participants from Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, and will allow TAG participants to
    post pictures, news articles, and share their experiences implementing community projects.

                                            The TAG II finalists have been writing about their progress
                                            and sharing their thoughts 0n the TAG summer conference
                                            on         their        social       networking         site
                                            (http://techagegirls.ning.com/forum). TAG II finalist from
                                            Ashgabat Aylar wrote, “During the summer conference, I got
                                            so many positive impressions that I can not express it in
                                            words. We had the opportunity to meet woman leaders. It
                                            was very pleasant to listen to every story…this gave us an
                                            invaluable and unforgettable experience, which will help us
                                            in our future lives. I had an internship at UNFPA, and
                                            continue to volunteer there. I have many plans for
                                            community projects - one of them is to hold IT classes for
     TAG participants concentrate on an
                                            housewives, helping them to make connections through the
                assignment                  Web, and to make friends.”

Both the TAG I and TAG II projects in Turkmenistan have benefited local communities. As TAG
participants implement their projects, they are not only helping their local communities, but also are
developing their potential to become Turkmenistan’s future leaders. As TAG II finalist Sabina says,
“After this training, I believe that I have power to make a difference in my community.”

								
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