Francesco Rulli, President of MTI USA inc, founder of bitLanders, Film Annex and Women's Annex Foundation recently wrote a blog that touched many of us about his efforts in helping Afghanistan girls. I was able to ask him questions related to that blog that he wrote. Below is his response to my first question.
Matthew: How hard was it to create 13 classrooms and connect 55,000 Afghan girls to the world wide web?
Francesco: Three years ago I watched a NATO video that introduced an Afghan Business Woman involved in the construction of Internet Classrooms at the Universities in Afghanistan in behalf of NATO, her name is Roya Mahboob.
I did try to contact Ms Mahboob on her website but it was hacked and she never received my messages. A month later I did contact her on LinkedIn and I was able to schedule a Skype call. We spoke and I expressed my interest to support Women through Digital Literacy to provide them a platform and skills to become financially self efficient. Ms. Roya Mahboob suggested to start with the high-schools in Herat. I wired her company the first $2,000 to purchase a digital video camera and after that, the first $20,000 to build the first classroom. The first school was Baghnazargah. I invite you to watch this great video:
Learn more about Baghnazargah at: http://www.bitlanders.com/key/baghnazargah
This first school was very special for me. I was able to see the results of our vision in less than three weeks, watch the classroom being built and see the students and teachers enjoy the benefits of our work. Following this first classroom we had 10 more classrooms and two IT centers in Herat, West Afghanistan, and Kabul, the Capital of Afghanistan.
This initiative allowed me to learn a lot about the Afghan Culture, and the importance of Digital Literacy especially for Women in Developing countries like Afghanistan. This also gave me a clear understanding of the values of the Renaissance, a cultural movement initiated in Florence in the 14th and 15th Century. Florence is my hometown.
This entire project was fully funded by my company MTI USA inc., we never received Afghan or USA or any other governmental financial support. Thanks to the great work and professionalism of Roya Mahboob’s company, Afghan Citadel, it was fairly easy to build the classrooms. Not a coincidence that in 2013 Roya Mahboob was listed by Time magazine in the prestigious list of Time 100 most influential people in the World. US Secretary of State John Kerry met Roya Mahboob and wrote about our work in Afghanistan in the only article he published on Politico "Afghan women on the march".
It’s not easy to balance between the conservative Afghan culture where Women are not supposed to show their face on Social Media and talk in public, while the traditional Western Social Media requires a constant disclosure of personal data and images. I saw the Afghan cultural needs as an opportunity not a problem. This in fact inspired me to introduce on our new Social Media network, bitLanders, a series of tools that would facilitate the work of Afghan Girls on Social Media, supply them privacy and economic opportunities; to achieve this goal we introduced: Anonymous Registration, Avatars and Bitcoin. This incredible experience opened for us the markets of Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and many other countries where users appreciate bitLanders and Women's Annex Foundation’s collaboration and work to satisfy their cultural needs, Good Deed is Good Business.
Everyday I learn an incredible amount of things from our work in Afghanistan and other developing countries. This is why I am certain that the young girls who benefit from those classrooms and Digital Literacy courses are the pillar to a new future and Renaissance. I invite you to read this article by Ms. Laleh Farzan, who is our media coordinator in Afghanistan: "Digital Literacy in Herat, Afghanistan, December 2014, Women's Annex update".
Stay tuned for the next conversation with Francesco Rulli and don't hesitate to visit Women's Annex Foundation for more information or to express your support to this admirable philanthropic initiative.