How Re:Coded gives refugees programming knowledge and skills

Giving By Emily Larson March 5, 2019

Digital and language skills are often a significant barrier for refugees to secure employment in their new host country, making it difficult to fully integrate into their new community.

To help overcome this challenge, the Western Union Foundation collaborated with Re:Coded, which provides a six-month coding bootcamp to prepare conflict-affected youth for jobs in the digital economy.

Re:Coded has a successful program, with operations in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen, training over 400 people with 85% gaining employment within 120 days of graduation. People like Fatima, who fled Falluijah and is now taking programming classes with Re:Coded in Iraq. She is “looking for a better life for [her] children and a better future,” gaining the hope and skills needed to enter the workforce.

We spoke with Re:Coded co-founder Ali Clare for her insight into the obstacles women in her space are facing today.


What has changed most for the women you are trying to help in recent years?

One of our core missions at Re:Coded is to help bridge the digital gender divide in technology through women’s empowerment and diverse cohorts. We try to have at least 40% females in all our coding bootcamps.

This is because more and more aspects of our lives are powered by technology, yet females are not being represented in the roles that create this technology. Research has shown that in many places there are barriers to simply using technology, let alone creating it. Yet software engineering jobs are often the fastest growing, best paying, and highest-needed jobs in today’s economy.

As such, Re:Coded aims to inspire a generation to start their journey to become programmers and technology entrepreneurs in their communities. To do this, we’ve launched a couple of key initiatives:

Re:Coded Women in Tech Summit – a series in 2017-18 across Iraq which showcased female tech leaders and encouraged women to become developers through interactive workshops.

Gender Equality Hackathon in Istanbul – we wanted to bring together gender experts and technologists to co-create solutions to some of the pressing challenges women face across Turkey.

Rails Girls – this is a global initiative bringing female developers from all over the world to mentor young women in tech over a weekend.


What is a problem still to be solved in your space?

Access to computer science education is not equitable, especially for females. Locally, the biggest contributors to the gender gap in technology and barriers to computer science education for females are:

  • The limited opportunities or exposure to computer science education at a high-school level, especially in areas that have been affected by conflict over the past three years.
  • Parents who may not be familiar with the benefits of coding for their daughters and are thus reluctant to let them join our programs.
  • Females who see the technology sector or a career in computer science as one that is male dominated.


What is the role of technology in your space to solve social problems?

For women in particular, improved access to technology is a true game changer, helping them to overcome mobility constraints, boosting access to information and social networks. Coding programs are an opportunity for girls around the world to embrace technology and digital innovation.

Through Re:Coded, we enable participants to work in teams and solve real-world problems they care about through code. They join a safe and supportive environment of peers & role models and learn to see themselves as computer scientists.


We are always working to gain more knowledge, so tell us, what podcast are you listening to right now? And what book are you reading?

I love to listen to How I Built This with Guy Raz, TED Radio Hour, The Daily and Without Fail.

I’m currently reading, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Hariri.


For more insight to trends affecting women, read from our nonprofit partner Women’s Bean Project here