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Girls for the sake of humanitarian ideas: An exceptional Hackathon was held in Armenia


Hacking for humanity – Under the humanitarian call, Girls in Tech has been conducting social innovation breaks in different parts of the world for decades to focus on combining high-tech women’s global issues. For the first time in Armenia such a storytape was held recently. The ISTC Innovative Solutions and Technology Center gathered 12 teams from Yerevan and different regions of Armenia who have overcome the first round of competition and have an opportunity to participate in the event.


The initiator of the event was “Girls in Tech Armenia” NGO, which set the main prerequisite for participation – at least 50% of women and girls in the teams, but as a result, more than 50 female representatives from around 70 participants were female.


Seda Papoyan founder of Girls in Tech Armenia said in conversation with us that Girls in Tech is a worldwide non-profit organization founded 10 years ago in San Francisco. The goal was to try to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, as well as in the field of technology. The initiative found supporters and was spread all over the world, proving that discrimination against women in almost every aspect of the world is much more noticeable and substantial in the IT industry”, -says Seda Papoyan, founder of Girls in Tech Armenia, and proudly mentions, – Ten years later, the movement has more than 60 branches in 35 countries around the world.


In 2016, Seda decided to seriously deal with the issue of women’s involvement in the IT sector and has established ties with the Girls in Tech headquarters. By the end of the year, the branch office was also officially registered in Armenia, with the opportunity to use the network’s capabilities and resources.


“At first glance it seems that women and girls in Armenian IT sector do not have very serious problems. In reality, however, there are a number of deep-rooted issues in our area, and our work is aimed at solving them. The first problem facing girls is the discrimination encountered in the educational process, so often girls leave the field. Everything starts from school. When a girl chooses technology, she often has to go against public opinion, the accepted stereotypes. Already in vocational education, especially when girls are able to express themselves, at some point they are told, “That’s not for your mind.” If girls, however, succeed in overcoming these barriers and reaching the labor market, they still basically share the secondary roles of the sector. Very few find themselves in the engineering and programming because there is a lack of trust in women”, – says Seda.


Lack of women in leadership roles is not just the Armenian phenomenon. This is in the whole world. The highest percentage of female involvement in primary sectors is up to 20% in the United States and Great Britain.


Girls in Tech does not raise gender issues, it works on the basis of the English 3 E (engage, educate, empower) letters, engage, educate and inspire. Sedan is convinced that if women have the desire and the ability to work and create an independent field, they must have the equal right. This ideology was the basis of the Hacking for Humanity Hackathon.


From the beginning of the year events under the same head have been carried out in different countries of the world, now it is the turn of Armenia.


“Hackathon was an open invitation to participate; the only precondition was the involvement of at least 50% of girls in teams. As a result, 80% of the received applications are from girls. This is already an indicator, not only for women’s interest, but also for the exceptional opportunity.


The authors of 55 ideas, as well as 51 individuals, who had not had their own ideas, were ready to support the teams with their knowledge and experience, “said the founder of Girls in Tech Armenia.


According to her, 10 ideas have received invitation for participation, and two more ideas have been added to Kolba Lab’s educational initiative. The themes were very different – from healthcare to environmental management, knowledge management, and up-to-date hospitality.


The other exclusivity of Hackathon is that the participants have developed their ideas and put them on more realistic basis with the help of experienced mentors. In Armenia, where the institute of mentoring is still in the embryonic phase, this is an important precedent.


 At the end of the two-day event, the Women’s Business Award, 600,000 drams, won the #Pepen team from the Aygek village of Armavir, an educational program by transforming toys created by animation into the mobile app. The same team also received a special prize from the Enterprise Incubator Foundation, a three-month free ISTC co-working space.


The grand prize 1,000,000 AMD, went to #HostingForHumanity, a team that aims to promote tourism development through host families and cultural experiences. The main prize winner Lusine Karapetyan is from Vayk. She had applied for Hackathon alone to express her willingness to support one of the teams, or to find a support team and form a separate team during the course. The team was formed exactly on the spot. Lusine joined another girl from Vayk and one boy, Gyumri. Thus, the idea originally included two provinces.


“I am an artist and I have nothing to do with programming. I heard about Hackathon very often. I had the idea of an ordinary person interested in tourism. I have submitted an individual application because I did not have a team. Hackathon gave me some things – self-confidence, the ability to believe in my own strengths, to be more concrete, and to challenge myself to come out of my environment and to create something new in a conflict environment, to develop in programming, economics and business management”, – says is Lusine.


The jury made a choice, taking into account the three criteria, the technological solution of the idea, and its impact on the quality of life of society, as well as continuity and sustainability as a business project.


The other participants of the Hackathon did not stay away from the prizes. For example, another special gift for EIF was made by the students of Robotics School in one of Vanadzor high schools, who brought their idea to Yerevan with their teacher. #Help team had the opportunity to use Vanadzor Technological Center’s co-working space for two months free of charge.


The #Siroon team has been awarded a scholarship from a Founder Institute prestigious start-up excavation program in San Francisco, which is going to develop communication opportunities with beauty salons and various service providers in one unified platform.


 #WooChess team has received a 6-month mentorship from A business and digital marketing expert from Brussels, Lucy Setian, which tries to bring chess e-learning to a new level.


Seda Papoyan, founder of Girls in Tech, is glad that the storytelling was important not only in terms of material, tangible results, but also encouraging and inspiring IT women and girls. The fact that after this, some women will take more active steps in the field is obvious for Seda.


Sona Martirosyan


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