Savvy and Skilled in TWG

It’s no secret that computers are central to the modern world, and that computer literacy is an increasingly necessary life skill for everyone from CEOs to children and stay-at-home moms. Even in the United Sates, though, there are questions about the forces keeping women away from careers in computers and technology, along with numerous efforts to get more women involved in the digital sphere. Here in Nablus, and particularly among the community that TYO serves, the lack of resources and absence of opportunities for learning make for an especially large gap among those who understand computers and those who do not. Computer literacy is not just an issue of skills: it’s a matter of self-confidence. When women see that their husbands, brothers, and children are able to easily navigate a computer and perform complex tasks, while they are unable even to find the “on/off” button, it can be discouraging.

That’s why TYO offers beginner and advanced IT classes to women both in The Women's Group (TWG) and in Women's Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs (WISE). This session, I have the pleasure of teaching an advanced IT class for TWG. The progress my class has made over our first four weeks has been remarkable: in our first class, when I asked the women to turn on their computers to begin the initial assessment, several did not know how to turn the computer on, or the difference between the computer and the monitor. But the women did not throw up their hands and quit, even though some felt embarrassed asking for help.

Heba demonstrates one of the uses of Microsoft Excel while other students from Advanced IT look on.

Since that first day, we’ve covered Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel, internet searches and email, in addition to English lessons. The same women who could not turn on their computers on the first day now strut in confidently at the start of each class, turn on their computers, log in, open up programs, and begin practicing, even without instruction. They’ve mastered word processing, preparing a presentation (including automatic slide-changing and voiceovers), and budget formulas—a complex topic that I had to relearn myself before I could teach others. They all have new email accounts, and with each new lesson, they gain more savvy and skills.

But the most remarkable transformation has been in their self-confidence and demeanor: women who were totally silent during the first classes now raise their hands to ask questions, and they feel comfortable trying new things on the computer even if they’re not certain what they’re doing. Some women have even demanded homework so they could continue practicing what they’ve learned at home.

Computer literacy is indeed a crucial skill in the modern world. But the most important takeaway from our class—self-confidence—is a trait that will serve the women of TWG well whatever they’re doing.

- Alex

Alex is an intern at TYO in Nablus