Bridging the Gender Digital Divide: SAP’s Batoul Husseini interviews Charbel Trad, Lebanon

[An English-language transcript of the Arabic portion of this video is available at the bottom of this post]

It’s Girls in ICT Day! We’re celebrating by featuring the incredible work of young innovators who are tackling the gender digital divide in their communities and countries. Young people with social enterprises focused on girls in ICT will be interviewed by influencers, supporters, and advocates from the private sector about their initiatives, impact, and inspiration.

In this video, Batoul Husseini, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP MENA, interviews Charbel Trad, a young Lebanese innovator and manager of BOT, a social procurement platform that provides digital jobs to youth and refugees.

About Charbel Trad

Charbel is a #DOTYouth social innovator and co-founder of Instaconsult, a mobile consultancy platform that helps people get on-demand information from top specialists, consultants, influencers, clinics and businesses. He holds a Masters in Computer Software Engineering from Antonine University. As the project manager for BOT, a social procurement platform, he is at the forefront of creating a youth-led economy of social good in Lebanon.

About Batoul Husseini

Based in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Batoul is Head of Government Relations and CSR at SAP where she is responsible for the strategic development of SAP’s government relations activities, including building relationships with local and federal institutions and entities. As well as driving CSR initiatives which promote social entrepreneurship and youth empowerment, Batoul has initiated Refugee Code Week, a corporate social responsibility collaboration between SAP and UNHCR that empowers youth with coding skills inside refugee communities across the MENA region.

About Girls in ICT Day

International Girls in ICT Day, an initiative led by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider car​eers in the growing field of ICTs, enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector. International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of April. 

English-language transcript:

Batoul: Thank you Sharon, hi Charbel. I will now speak in Arabic. I would like you to tell me about the work you are doing in your social enterprise today. How did you start and what are the efforts you are putting into eliminating the digital gap between the two genders, especially when it comes to girls?

Charbel: Hi Batoul! First of all, thank you for your time today. This day is very important to us as a social enterprise to create awareness for boys and girls because they have great opportunities to get involved in the digital economy.

We started by identifying the problems youth are facing in the market today. We saw that unemployment was the main issue everyone was talking about, and there was a need to create work opportunities. We also found that most of the public and private companies do have a need for people in their fields but that there’s a lack of people who have the competencies they are looking for.

DOT Lebanon and DOT global are training youth in critical digital and 21st century skills, but there is still more to be done, however, as these skills alone are not enough to be able to get into a field of work. We asked ourselves, how we can create a link between the youth who have these skills and the companies that need them?

To solve this, we created a social enterprise called BOT as the model that can introduce youth to the market as skilled freelancers.

We contact the companies to connect them to the skilled talent they need, and we put youth to work by giving them tasks within the companies that they can solve. This way, we provide the first step for them to get into the market while also continuing to train them on new skills related to the market needs, so that they can provide services to companies on a bigger scale and eventually become independent freelancers and create employment for themselves.

Batoul: Amazing. Charbel, let me ask you: What is it that inspired you to create this Social enterprise? What is it that motivates you to keep going and excel in the work you’re doing?

Charbel: What made us continue and work more and get bigger is the will of youth to work. They are being very meticulous and doing good work, and at the same time we are noticing an increasing demand from youth for the service.

Because we are training 70% of women and we are working with those who live in rural areas, we are able to solve the lack of opportunities they often encounter in the workforce.

Batoul: Could you give me an example on the impact of the work of your social enterprise has on the community? If you could, give me an example of what you have been able to do.

Charbel: For example, we are working in a region very far from Beirut – I am talking about a three-hour drive from the capital – with a company where we have placed six young women. There were various additional skills we needed to equip them with to make sure they could meet the needs of the company, like English, data entry, and communication skills. We provided additional training in these areas, and each of the young women were able to make $2,000 in six weeks, which is a big deal for them. It’s creating opportunities for people that they did not have before.

Batoul: Wow.

Charbel: That had a big impact on us, it was very motivating to keep going with the social enterprise. 

Batoul: Of course, the impact is clear and positive and shown. Today, the International Girls in ICT Day, what advice can you give youth who would like to eliminate the digital gap between the genders, and especially to young women who want to work in the domain of technology?

Charbel: We know how many opportunities there are in the field of technology. When I was in university, as a software engineer, I found that it was rare for women to get into the ICT field because they could feel it was too difficult. The men in the program, however, could see that women perform better because they are very detail-oriented, they are focused, and are high performers. I think that confidence needs to be built to help young women feel it is not impossible. That is what we do with our social enterprise, help them see that they have the skills and it is not impossible. They just need the motivation, enthusiasm, and initiative to just take the first step. Start with digital literacy and learning basics, and then you can find yourself moving forward in the workforce quickly. Most of the jobs available in the market today are digital, and if young people get in touch with us we will try to find them a job.

Batoul: Thank you very much, Charbel.

Charbel: Thank you so much for your time.

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