SMEX and Arab Techies have spent the past couple of months organizing a meetup of about 34 women from ten Arab countries to talk about technology, empowerment, entrepreneurship, development, and whatever else they want to put on the table. Participants are programmers, web developers, artists, teachers, professors, PhD students, bloggers, social media experts, activists, NGO coordinators and come from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Oman.
The gathering is being held at the lovely and welcoming Youth Cultural Center in Zouk Mikael, Lebanon, from May 11-14. Funding for the meeting was provided by Hivos and Heinrich Böll Stiftung.
Lebanese technologist and coordinator of Take Back the Tech Beirut, Nadine Moawad got the four-day event off to a good start with a look at the stereotypes women face and ways in which technology can both empower and disempower women. Advocating for more women in decision-making roles, Moawad offered two memorable mantras:
- If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu, and
- It’s better to be at the table than on the agenda.
Following a brief break, participants shared on Post-It notes the skills they want and the skills they can share in the Barcamp-style workshops that will take place each afternoon. Among the requests for skills: Drupal, photo-editing skills, PHP, wiki editing, Moodle, Linux, Twitter for campaigns, Arabic content and right-to-left issues, and online security. Among the offers: All of the above, of course, plus some more.
In the next session, several participants gave short presentations about their current projects, a ritual that will be repeated each day.
After lunch, the women returned to the meeting room to get quick tutorials in wiki editing, how to have an IRC chat, and engaged in a lively discussion about open source software.
Unlike most technology events held in the region, the Arab Women Techies meeting is being held entirely in Arabic. Conference organizers, take note: It can be done.
Follow the hashtag #ATWomen to see things unfold in real-time.