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Computer literacy in the 21st century is not just important, it is essential. Increasingly, our lives are dominated by evolving technology. Technology grows at such a rapid pace that even those among us who have been students of technology since we were young can find it hard to keep up. In many instances, this skill is generational. Computer technology boomed throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and as such, a generation of young people that grew up in those years and beyond has had the privilege of learning it through school, as a subject as essential as learning a second language. In most cases, through no fault of their own, an older generation was left behind, though they were not the only ones. While it is true that computers are considered essential in today’s day and age, they remain expensive are not accessible for many around the world. Statistically speaking, computer literacy rates are also lower for women than they are for men on a global scale, and such is the case in Palestine.

Part of the Women’s Group programming at TYO are basic and advanced technology classes for women in the Nablus community. Through these programs, the women have an opportunity to interact with technology in a way they may not otherwise have the chance to do in a safe, comfortable space with their peers and instructors. This program goes hand in hand with TYO’s focus on women’s empowerment through various vehicles, and has proven to be successful for many of our wonderful, intelligent women. As the instructor for this fall’s beginner and advanced IT classes, I have had the chance to see with my own eyes what kind of things these women are capable of doing.

Fatima learns how to create a Powerpoint presentation.

Empowering Women through Technology

As previously mentioned, fluency in the language of computers in the 21st century is almost as essential as fluency in any local language. Computer technology has become the mode of communication in the professional world, with tools such as e-mail, digital reporting, social media, and text messaging. By encouraging women in Nablus to practice interacting with computer technology, we are also aiding in empowering them to become more present leaders in their communities. Computer literacy is a skill that increases employability, provides a new tool in communication, and facilitates ease of access to information.

A large number of the women in our IT classes have expressed the desire to become more comfortable with computers for it’s practicality. Many of the women in the program are mothers with younger kids who would like to further understand and protect their families from the possible dangers of the Internet. Others are more interested in learning how to set up and use an e-mail account in the interest of professional development. That said, all have acknowledged the need to be familiar with the functions of a computer in the year 2015 as a way to feel more empowered in every aspect of their lives.

What is it useful for?

While our beginner classes focus more on understanding the hardware and most essential software programs, our advanced classes take it a couple of steps further. All of our women are taught functions in Microsoft Office Programs (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel), as well as browser functions through Google Chrome, Facebook, and Adobe Photoshop.

So why is this important? In reality, the reasons are many. Household tasks such as budgeting and creation of letters and lists can be done with knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel. Women who seek to further their professional competency skills are given the chance to learn how to create attractive presentations through PowerPoint, apply for jobs, or send their electronic CV’s with an e-mail account that belongs to them. Mothers who seek to communicate more frequently and easily with family members living or traveling abroad are taught those functions through platforms such as Facebook. In short, the women are learning more and more just how empowered they can be in various aspects of life with an understanding of computer technology.

Global women’s empowerment is important. Now more than ever, we are witnessing more instances of strong female leadership in various aspects of life, across different parts of the world. However, there is still a long way to go. Using technology to further empower women in Nablus to do more for their communities and families is as essential as it is anywhere, when you consider the daily hardships that they face here. While this is only a small step in ensuring higher roles for women both in Palestine and abroad, it is certainly a good start.

Mohammed, Fall 2015 Zahi Khouri Fellow