Every year on August 12th the United States joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Youth Day. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first International Youth Day, which was instituted in 1999 by the United Nations General Assembly.
International Youth Day celebrates the contributions of young people, as well as acknowledges the unique cultural and political challenges they experience. This year, the theme of International Youth Day is ‘transforming education,’ which examines how governments, youth, and youth-focused organizations are transforming education in order to ensure that boys and girls are not only leaders of tomorrow, but positive change makers for today.
The Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) contributes to U.S. Government efforts to promote positive spaces for youth, particularly girls, to learn and live up to their potential. In celebration of the 20th International Youth Day, S/GWI was thrilled to host the D3C0ders, a team of socially conscious female technology developers, in Washington D.C., from August 9th to the 12th.
The U.S. Embassy in Tirana supports the Tirana American Corner, one of the State Department’s American Spaces, where the D3C0ders have been collaborating since 2016, when the girls were just 12 years old. The American Spaces program engages across the globe with the youth of their host countries, providing them with a variety of programming that is aimed to enhance their personal and professional development.
Referring to the American Corner in Tirana, the D3C0ders said, “it is a place where young people, with common interests, can come together and have everything they need to make their ideas come true.” These spaces engage with Albanian youth by offering a variety of programming that enhances their personal and professional development.
The American Corner in Tirana is where the D3C0ders, an ambitious group of three Albanian high-school students, Arla Hoxha, Dea Rrozhani, and Jonada Shukarasi, was born. The D3C0ders are a team dedicated to driving positive social change through technological development and programming. Through skill development workshops, plentiful resources, and engaged staff provided by the American Corner in Tirana, the D3C0ders were able to put their brains together and enter this year’s Technovation Challenge.
The Technovation Challenge is the world’s largest technology entrepreneurship program for adolescent girls. Technovation offers girls from around the world the opportunity to learn the skills they need to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders in the STEM industry. Through this program, teams of adolescent girls are asked to identify a problem in their community, and are then challenged to solve it. Together the teams build phone applications and use them as a tool for solving the problem they have identified in their community. In expressing why focusing on girls in STEM is so important the D3C0ders stated that, “Girls should not be excluded from these opportunities because maybe one of us will have the next big idea, the next big solution.”
For this year’s competition the D3C0ders created GjejZâ, which in Albanian means “find your voice.” GjejZâ is an app that helps Albanian women subjected to intimate partner violence with access to necessary resources to help them overcome the consequences of gender-based violence. When deciding what social issue they wanted to take on, the team described looking into their own lives, as well as the lives of their friends and family, and saw a prevalent pattern of violence against women, stating bluntly that, “domestic violence is a fixture here in Albania.”
The D3c0ders incorporated information on social services, job openings, technical training and savings opportunities, to alert users to new opportunities and increasing their financial independence, therefore mitigating their vulnerability to continued abuse.
The D3c0ders, as well as the other participants in this year’s Technovation Challenge, are excellent examples of the power and positive change that comes from having girls join the STEM fields. As the world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the first International Youth Day, the U.S. Government reaffirms our commitment to helping all boys and girls receive a quality education that will allow them to be forces for positive change in their communities, and across the world.
To learn more about the D3C0ders and GjejZâ head over to technovationchallenge.org/world-pitch/peoples-choice-award to see their pitch video, and even vote for them to win the People’s Choice Award at this year’s competition.