AKIPRESS.COM – The University of Central Asia’s School of Arts and Sciences (UCA-SAS) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) organized the EcoKyzdar (EcoGirls) Hackathon on “Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability” at UCA Campus in Naryn on 15-16 April 2023. The Hackathon welcomed 49 girls from diverse backgrounds across Kyrgyzstan including students from UCA and other universities as well as members of UNICEF’s “Girls in Science” programme.
Nestled amidst the splendid Tenir Too mountains, a group of young women aged 17-21 gathered for this Hackathon to deepen their understanding of climate change, build new friendships, and collaborate on addressing various environmental issues.
At the end of the hackathon, contestants presented innovative ideas to a panel of expert judges, including Samarat Mambetajieva, Manager of Academic Affairs of UCA’s School of Professional and Continuing Education, Naryn, Jyldyz Isabekova, Country Director of Accelerate Prosperity, Kyrgyzstan, Nuriia Karakulova, Adolescents & Youth Development Officer at UNICEF, Kyrgyzstan, and Dr Ian Phil Canlas, Senior Lecturer of Science at UCA-SAS and Scholar of the Department of Science and Technology in the Philippines.
The groups came up with innovative ideas to address environmental challenges. Ideas included: a) the development of a robot arm to separate recyclable trash from other waste, b) adding QR codes to fabric bags used at grocery stores for their loyalty programmes, c) producing sustainable book covers and d) teaching young girls how to make traditional Kyrgyz handicrafts and then helping them launch tourism-related startups.
“At UCA, we recognize that achieving gender equality requires more than providing ‘equal’ opportunities. By creating a programme that is exclusively for young women, we aim to address the gender-based inequities that exist in STEM fields and provide a more level playing field for our young women to succeed. This effort is part of the broader vision of the UCA Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, who emphasises the importance of pluralism and civil society in promoting peace and development. We believe that by embracing both equality and equity, we can contribute to building a more inclusive and pluralistic society that aligns with our Chancellor’s vision,” said Kiran Bhimani, Faculty at UCA’s School of Arts and Sciences and co-Organizer of ECOKyzdar Hackathon.
The Hackathon concluded with Elnura Asangazy Kyzy, Vice Mayor of Naryn, awarding the competition winners with monetary prize ($500 for 1st place, $300 for 2nd place, and $200 for 3rd place) sponsored by UCA. To further develop the ideas that came up during ECOKyzdar Hackathon, the team that stood first has been invited to participate in the Accelerate Prosperity Incubation Programme, run by the Aga Khan Development Network. Accelerate Prosperity offers the team an opportunity to win $10,000 to invest in their startup.
“In 2020, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts asked girls and young women in over 100 countries what they were most concerned about. For girls under the age of 18, climate change was the most pressing issue. Since girls and young women are disproportionately affected by climate change, we need to ensure that they participate in the discourse. This initiative provides a learning environment for young Kyrgyzstani leaders to change the discourse and have a collective climate change response,” said Christine Jaulmes, UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan.
In addition to their participation in the competition, the young women also attended sessions on Design Thinking, Public Speaking, Women in Leadership, Financial Literacy and Fundraising. These workshops were conducted by notable leaders who are distinguished in their respective fields such as Elena Chigibaeva, CEO of WeInCrypto; Aizat Ruslanova, Executive Director of IDEA Central Asia and Jyldyz Isabekova, Country Director of Accelerate Prosperity, Kyrgyzstan.