On January 24, 2023, AMWA leaders participated in the LA Premiere of Afghan Dreamers, a moving, inspiring story about the first all-girls robotics team in Afghanistan. Not only did they prevail against all odds to become internationally recognized within the robotics community, but they also persevered through hardship as the country fell to Taliban forces. Given the current restrictions faced by women and girls in Afghanistan, the film is even more poignant as we reflect on the potential of what once was.
Speakers at the premiere included Somaya Faruqi, a former captain of the team who was named one of BBC’s 100 Women in 2020, Executive Producer David Cowan and Associate Producer Dr. Douglas Chin (AMWA member).
Afghan Dreamers is currently being screened at film festivals around the world, most recently at the Woodstock Film Festival and the Galway International Film Festival, where it won 2022 Best Human Rights Film. It is expected to be released this Spring by MTV-Paramount Pictures.
It was in 2017 when the Afghan Dreamers team made international news after being denied visas for an international robotics competition in Washington, DC. Only after an international outcry and the intervention of Congressional representatives were they eventually allowed to participate. They would win a silver medal for courageous achievement and would later win awards at several other international robotics competitions. When they returned to Herat, Afghanistan, they found that their unlikely international success made them national heroes. So moved was President Ashraf Ghani by the girls’ success that he committed his government to the building of five STEM institutes throughout Afghanistan.
Their continued progress and growth as a team would become a symbol of hope and inspiration to their country – and the face of a new generation of women and girls in Afghanistan.
The team was founded by Roya Mahboob, CEO of Digital Citizen Fund, who was named TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2013. From the “magic box” personal computer that would change her life at the age of 14, Mahboob would go on to become the first woman tech CEO in Afghanistan. She is the founder of Digital Citizen Fund, a non-profit which seeks to empower women and girls through access to technology and education.
AMWA hosts the Afghan Dreamers
AMWA leaders first met Mahboob and the Afghan Dreamers in 2018 when the team traveled to the United States to attend the Raw Science Film Festival, where they received honors from the Conrad Foundation and Janet’s Planet. The team was hosted by AMWA for the duration of their time in California, where they also participated in visits to Google, Twitter, and Pixar and gatherings with the local community, scouts, and robotics teams. View a thank you message to AMWA from the team.
AMWA leaders would stay in touch with the team during their time in North America which included a long stay in Canada where the girls studied and participated in robotics competitions.
In May 2018, Mahboob and the team would return to the U.S. to be featured speakers at the Human to Mars Summit in Washington DC.
In 2022, with the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces and subsequent Afghan government collapse, the team and their families fled to other countries where they have continued their education.
AMWA continues to stands in solidarity with the women and girls of Afghanistan who have been persecuted under the restrictive Taliban regime. According to Time Magazine, Afghanistan is the worst place in the world to live as a woman. It is the only country in the world to forbid girls from receiving an education. In addition, it is illegal for women to leave their homes uncovered or without a male chaperone.
Ways to help.
Those looking to help may consider donations to support medical care in Afghanistan, Afghan refugees who are or have been relocated to the United States, and the Digital Citizen Fund.
Future film screenings.
AMWA will be co-hosting some upcoming screenings of the film. Stay posted!
Related AMWA articles:
Girls Robotics Team from Afghanistan at the Raw Science Film Festival
AMWA & Afghan Girls Robotics Team at the Human to Mars Summit
Afghan Dreamers Robotics Team – Returning Home with Honors
AMWA Collaborates to Provide Humanitarian Relief for Afghanistan