Empowering women and young coders in Iraq

400 km southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, the Khutwa Centre is working to shift mindsets towards coding and to empower female volunteers. Their coordinator, Nadia, tells us more.

Two young Code Club looking at a screen working on a Scratch project.
Young Code Club members working on a Scratch project

Making code accessible

Nadia’s Code Club journey started when she was living and studying in London. She became a Code Club volunteer at Oak Farm Library in Uxbridge, London: 

“I was studying at university when I saw how participating in a Code Club is beneficial for both the kids and the volunteer trainers. When I finished my studies and returned home to Iraq, I wanted to give the same opportunity to the community here.”

While children in private schools in Iraq currently have fairly widespread access to computer education, children in most government schools do not. In Maysan province, where Nadia is based, the rate of child poverty is 50%, and for many young people there, Code Club is the only way to access computer education. 

Nadia in front of a power point presentation
Nadia delivering training to Code Club volunteers

Training women at the Khutwa Centre

When Nadia returned to Iraq in 2017 to start work as a lecturer for the Southern Technical University and Amarah Technical Institute, she also begun volunteering for the Khutwa Centre for Training and Development. The centre provides training opportunities in IT and English language for adults, as well as support for young people, particularly high school students at risk of leaving school. 

Earlier this year, the Khutwa Centre became the first Code Club Growth Leader in Iraq. Our Growth Leader programme supports non-profit organisations around the world to introduce Code Club into their programmes, mixing local expertise with Code Club resources and support to create more opportunities for more young people.

Nadia at the front of the classroom, training a group of female volunteers.
Nadia training a group of female volunteers

Nadia’s first step as a Growth Leader has been to train female volunteers to prepare them to start Code Clubs of their own. Until the University of Maysan was established, many women in the province were unable to complete their university education, as families were worried about letting daughters travel far away to study. As a result, many women in Maysan lack experience, and confidence in their abilities. 

Nadia’s goal is to give these women the skills and conviction they need to boost their careers, as well as supporting the younger generation and changing opinions about coding and technology in their wider community. In just two months, Nadia has inducted 14 female volunteers into the programme, with plans to train another 30 in the next six months. 

Making games, not just playing them 

Getting started has not been without its challenges, from finding keen volunteers, to getting permission from the local education department to access schools. Local organisations have been pivotal for Nadia’s Growth Leader work, giving their support by providing venues and training facilities. Nadia has also spent time reaching out to local parents to encourage them to attend sessions themselves and directly register their children. Her persistence has paid off: currently, 30 children are on the waiting list to participate in Code Club. 

The Khutwa Centre recently ran a successful Scratch Day event, where children from the region tried out Code Club Scratch projects, and teachers, parents, and volunteers joined to find out how to get involved.  

One volunteer trainee, Zahra, summarised the impact she hopes to see from her new Code Club: 

“As a teacher I always seek opportunities to develop my skills and my students… I want my students to improve their logical thinking and ability to think outside the box. I want them to realise that they can make games instead of just playing them.”

Next steps for the Khutwa Centre

Nadia plans to speak to interested schools and youth centres over summer holiday, and she will host more training events for volunteers, in Maysan as well as in other provinces. There’s plenty of exciting things to come for the Code Club community in Iraq.

Two young girls dressed in yellow working at a computer.
Two young girls taking part in Scratch Day

Help grow Code Club in your community

If you are part of a not-for-profit organisation and would like to work with us to grow Code Club in your local community, then find out more about our Growth Leaders programme on our website. 

To find out how to start your own Code Club, head to www.codeclub.org if you are based in the UK, or to www.codeclubworld.org if you are based outside the UK.