A woman types on a laptop, while two men and another woman watch.

From Student to Social Innovator

September 27, 2018
Women find space for innovation in Afghanistan

When Lima Madomi was a computer student in Afghanistan, she set her sights on becoming a technologist, despite living in an environment where few women get such chances. Now, she has not only become accomplished in her field, she’s gone further and become a well-recognized social innovator.

Lima’s journey was supported by her participation in iLabs, an Internews project that convenes local experts in the fields of ICT, media, government, and civil society to work collaboratively to identify technology solutions to social problems. 

Lima, who was a budding social innovator in her own right, participated in the 2017 iLabs, and has since gone on to turn some of the social innovation ideas conceived into actual products that address social change. At the 2018 Social Innovation Conference, organized by TechNation in partnership with Internews to mark four years of iLabs, Lima was one of four female alumni who were selected to present their experiences.

“iLabs gave me the platform to network with other developers and join forces to turn our ideas into actual products,” said Lima.

A primary approach of iLabs was to put female developers on equal footing with their male counterparts. “There are not enough spaces where young female innovators can come together to learn and develop. It was at the iLabs that I got empowered to actually start developing workable solutions to the identified problem statements,” said Lima.

The Social Innovation Conference also featured a Master Class and Global Showcase by two acclaimed social innovators from the sub-region. “I was very inspired by the stories of products being developed by other young women like me in Pakistan, India, and Bahrain, among others. I felt that this is only the beginning of what I, a female social innovator, can do here in Afghanistan.”

Developing Innovative Resources for Local Needs

Lima is now turning her attention to two products she has been developing over the past couple of months – an online bookshop, and a database of resources for local technologists. “As a woman, I’m able to develop solutions that take the unique challenges of Afghan girls into account, hence an e-shop where I could safely connect book lovers such as myself. The iLabs platform taught us how to take the context into consideration and develop products that respond to the needs of our target group, which is what I’m doing now.”

Lima also drew her inspiration from homegrown products by Afghan female innovators just like herself: “To see other women who started out like me, showcasing their products that have made the news internationally, such as Asan-UP and Hujj Rahnuma, was a big inspiration for me.”

Other young women in Lima’s cohort who have been able to benefit from the iLabs platform include Nargis Qaderi, who developed the winning App Hidden Angels to help local charities securely and ethically track and monitor the street children they support.

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Innovation Labs (iLabs) was launched and is managed by Internews under the USAID-funded Afghan Civic Engagement Program (ACEP), co-implemented with Counterpart International.


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