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Afghanistan's First Female Coders Designed a Videogame to Protest Opium Production

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Afghanistan's First Female Coders Designed a Videogame to Protest Opium Production

An all-female program within Afghanistan is empowering young women and helping them break traditional gender barriers to become the first female coders in the country. And they’re putting this new skill to good use.

The Code to Inspire program brings together over 80 female high school and college students with the purpose of changing their lives by teaching them how to build websites, mobile apps and videogames. The program’s focus on the tech field is revolutionary within the Middle Eastern nation due to its domination by males. CIT gives women not only a place to develop coding and programming skills for professional opportunity, but also a way to interact with and speak to the larger conversations and topics within Afghanistan.

The most notable example of this is a game developed by Khatera Mohammadi based off her brother’s experiences as a translator for American troops in the Helmand province, one of the country’s heaviest areas of poppy growth and cultivation. “Each time he came back home, he would tell us about the poppy fields, the terrible mine blasts, battling opium traffickers and drugs,” Mohammadi told the AP.

Mohammadi’s game is called Fight Against Opium and took the group one month to complete. Players have five lives and must clear out poppy plants and the heroin and opium produced from it while avoiding hidden soldiers, land mines, drug traffickers and heroin labs. The focus on Afghanistan’s production of opium and heroin is unsurprising. According to the AP, the Taliban is still heavily involved in the growth of poppy plants in the nation, which produces more opium than all other countries combined. The Taliban uses funds from the poppy business to fund its continuing war against the Afghan government.

The game is both a tribute to Mohammadi’s brother and a statement on the direction the collection of women want to see their country take. They even offer an alternative to the poppy plant in the game: saffron. “Saffron is more expensive and it would be better for the country,” said Mohammadi.

Unfortunately, Fight Against Opium is not available outside of Afghanistan currently. Regardless, the Code to Inspire program is opening new doors for the young Afghan women in terms of both self-expression and job opportunities.

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