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Meet Najla Almissalati co-founder of She Codes teaching women programing in Libya

by Milicent Atieno
Meet Najla Almissalati co-founder of She Codes teaching women programing in Libya

It is no secret, Libya has seen better days in terms of political and civil unrest. These days, the country is torn up between rival rebel groups and a government trying to assert its authority. To top it all, it is largely an Islamic country, where women rights aren’t exactly respected.

For such a conservative and religious, yet war-torn country, women often face a lot of restrictions. It, therefore, picked Innov8tiv’s interest that one woman – Najla Almissalati (@Najla_Missalati– has taken the bold step of setting up a formal establishment where fellow women can come to learn programming and other ICT skills. As the co-founder of She Codes, Almissalati runs the center as a business (and a successful one at that) where she offers women lessons on coding and programming. The curriculum at the center is geared at equipping the women with the ICT skills needed to run a business in this digital job market. Though the operations are not spared from the political turmoil Libya is currently in.

The current situation is really difficult and the political instability is actually affecting everything,” said Almissalati during an interview with a section of the media.

We’ve encountered several challenges and we learnt to anticipate things that could go wrong and find a solution beforehand. For example, there was the threat of delivering the coding courses in an unsafe place where the girls might get harassed, and that’s why we are very careful in choosing our venture location.”

The She Codes learning center, like many other businesses and residential establishments, is facing a serious problem with constant internet and power outages. To mitigate this problem, the center pre-downloads the learning material and uses power banks. There is also the serious problem of learners facing economic challenges, which only serves to interfere with their learning process.

Startups in Libya are operating in an extremely difficult environment. The war has caused a currency crisis with the exchange rate not being in favor of the Libyan by a huge margin. That also means the cost of importing ICT equipment is higher than it would have been if there were no wars.

Despite these challenges, She Codes continues to press on and imparting ICT skills to women in the region. Almissalati believes the tech skills the women are acquiring will go a long way to improve the situation in Libya.

She Codes also promises to open an avenue for generating revenues for not just the women, but households in Libya. Currently, it is dangerous for everyone to leave the house in search for their daily bread and butter. One may leave in the morning but never make it home again.

That is a serious threat, which has seen some home go by on very little means. However, through the digital skills, She Codes is imparting on the women. They could work from home, keep their family fed and clothed through the tough economic times.

She Codes launched in Libya early this year with the goal of empowering women in the Muslim country.

Libyan women are half of Libyan society. However, the percentage of active working women is below average. Many conservative families are against women going to work and working with men, another reason is the war and instability in the country.”

It would appear, the tough economic times occasioned by the political and civil unrest has made the cost of living in Libya go so high that it is no longer feasible for families to depend on just the salary of the men in the house. The situation has made men, who typically control the household with an iron-fist, loosen and willing to allow the women in the household to go look for work. In a twisted way, there have been benefits to the ongoing wars in Libya. In at least as the freedom of work and pay for women is concerned.

However, the majority of them won’t allow them to work or attend courses where males are present.”

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