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Afghan Girl Coders Design Game to Fight Biggest Problems of Their Country

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Like the team of Afghan schoolgirls who rose to fame last year when they competed in a robotics competition in the United States, the coders show what reserves of talent there are to be tapped when Afghan girls are given a chance.
Afghan Girls design games to fight opium and inequality, wikimedia commons
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Think Super Mario Bros., but with an Afghan twist. This is how Afghanistan’s first generation of female coders explain their abilities as game-makers after uploading more than 20 games on digital app stores this year.

More than 20 young women in the western city of Heart have established themselves as computer experts, building apps and websites as well as tracking down bugs in computer code.

Like the team of Afghan schoolgirls who rose to fame last year when they competed in a robotics competition in the United States, the coders show what reserves of talent there are to be tapped when Afghan girls are given a chance.

“Coders can work from home and it is in this process women are building a new career path for themselves and for the next generation,” said Hasib Rasa, project manager of Code to Inspire, which teaches female students coding in Herat.

One of the games designed by the all-female team has caught the eye of developers and gamers as it illustrates the scourge of opium cultivation and the challenges the Afghan security forces face as they try to stamp it out.

The 2-D game “Fight Against Opium” is an animated interpretation of the missions that Afghan soldiers undertake to destroy opium fields, fight drug lords and help farmers switch to growing saffron.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest source of opium but it also grows saffron – the world’s most expensive spice – which has long been pushed as an alternative to wean farmers off a crop used to make heroin.

Despite a ban, opium production hit a record in 2017, up 87 percent over 2016, according to a U.N. study.

The 2-D game "Fight Against Opium" is an animated interpretation of the missions that Afghan soldiers undertake to destroy opium fields, fight drug lords and help farmers switch to growing saffron.
Afghanistan Flag, wikimedia commons

Khatira Mohammadi, a student who helped develop the anti-opium game, said she wanted to show the complexities of the drug problem in the simplest way.

“We have illustrated our country’s main problem through a game,” said Mohammadi.

At the institute, more than 90 girls and young women, wearing headscarves and long black coats, are trained in coding and software development, a profession seen by some in conservative Afghanistan as unsuitable for women.

In Afghan society, it is unusual for women to work outside the home. Those who do, are mostly teachers, nurses, doctors, midwives and house helpers.

Also Read: North Korea warns US to Not Misread Peace Overtures as Weakness 

After the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, women regained freedom to work in offices with male colleagues – but many consider working as a software developer a step too far.

Hasib Rasa said girls are encouraged to design original player characters, goals, and obstacles that reflect Afghanistan’s ethos.

The course is exclusively aimed at females, aged 15-25, who are unable to pursue a four-year degree due to lack of funds or hail from families where they are prevented from enrolling in co-education schools.

“In Afghanistan the ability to work remotely is a key tool in the push for equality,” said Rasa. (VOA)

 

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Air Trade Corridor Between China And Afghanistan Now Open

In the wake of its increased economic engagement in the region, China recently set up a trilateral foreign ministers' level dialogue with Pakistan and Afghanistan

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afghanistan and china
Google Maps. VOA

Landlocked Afghanistan has opened its first direct air link with China, dispatching 20 tons of pine nuts on the inaugural cargo flight.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior Chinese diplomats attended the special ceremony Monday in Kabul, hoping the air corridor will lead to increased Afghan exports of dry and fresh fruits to Chinese markets and address a massive trade deficit.

Polio, afghanistan
A boy receives polio vaccination drops during an anti-polio campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

 

During the past year, Afghanistan has launched air corridors with India, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.

A presidential statement said 20 tons of pine nuts will be exported daily to China until the end of the season this year. Beijing is one of the largest importers of Afghan pine nuts.

Afghan officials estimate the air corridor would enable them to transport 23,000 tons of pine nuts annually to China, earning up to $800 million in revenue.

Ghani described pine nuts, pistachio nuts, and cumin as “the hidden treasures” of Afghanistan, saying the trade corridors would enable the country to utilize its full potential.

Polio, afghanistan
Australia’s Defense Minister Marise Payne (L-R), China’s PLA Lieutenant-General He Lei and Canada’s Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan listens to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ address at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2018. VOA

Afghan businessmen and traders expect raw materials, including saffron and semi-precious stones, which are found in Afghanistan, will also be exported to China through the newly opened link.

The Afghan government has been searching for alternate trade routes to reduce dependence on uneasy neighbor Pakistan for international trade. Under a bilateral understanding, Islamabad allows Kabul to use Pakistani land routes and sea ports for international exports.

Also Read: Knowledge To Restrict Internet Worldwide Exported By China: Report

But Afghan officials and businessmen say political tensions and border skirmishes often prompt Islamabad to close major border crossings for days, hampering overland Afghan shipments, mostly containing perishable goods.

In the wake of its increased economic engagement in the region, China recently set up a trilateral foreign ministers’ level dialogue with Pakistan and Afghanistan to help ease tensions between the two countries and increase mutual security cooperation to fight regional terrorism. (VOA)