Meet Achia Khaleda Nila, Founder of “Women In Digital Bangladesh” (WIDBD), an initiative of a social enterprise that has created programs to help women advance by providing access to a Digital Platform.
Coming from a Tech background Nila started this initiative in 2013 and is ever since committed to empowering women. The WIDBD-team provides a wealth of knowledge, training and resources to women in Bangladesh who demonstrate interest in developing digital products such as mobile apps, software, web apps, e-commerce sites and any type of graphic, animation etc. Currently, Nila works with an in-house development team which employs over 25 talented women.
Nila, when you started „Women In Digital Bangladesh“, what was your initial motivation and your vision?
Nila: We have unofficially started “Women In Digital Bangladesh” (WIDBD) on March 3rd, 2013. At that time we didn’t have any physical office. From 2015 on we have started our office formally. My motivation came from my life experience. I am a Tech person. I have been in this industry for over 9 years. In this time, I have faced lots of struggles as a female tech person in this industry and I have been able to make all my pain to gain. Then I decided, I will do something different only for women to overcome those struggles that I have faced in work life and place. That has motivated me to create WIDBD.
WIDBD‘s vision is to successfully cultivate mutually beneficial networks between industry, academia and government with a focus on women working in the technology industries across the country.
As you have mentioned, you have a tech background yourself. Was it difficult to introduce such an initiative to the industry? To society even?
Nila: My advantage is that I have a tech background, so I know how to play my role as a woman in digital. As a women, I have faced many problems to introduce this initiative to the industry and society. It`s hard for people to accept something new. Initially, I have tried to make people understand about my initiative but it was hard. Now I don’t care about that anymore, I just stay focused and avoid negative minded people. I stay positive and I can see results now.
Looking back: What were the biggest challenges?
Nila: The first challenge is: I am a woman. The second challenge is: I am a Tech woman. The third challenge is: I am a female entrepreneur. The fourth challenge is: I am working for women. In our society people love to think that women can only manage the home. But times have changed and it is time to admit the fact that women can manage both home and work. WIDBD will constantly work on this.
What is the greatest value of being part in a network such as WIDBD?
Nila: The greatest value is to know that we are not alone. Whenever you encounter difficulties, you can rely on our community. Women can help each other. The bigger the network will become the more helpful it will be. Together we have the chance to do more for us, for our society, our country and the world.
You have also introduced the first „Digital Innovation Challenge for Women“. Can you tell us a little bit what this challenge is about?
Nila: The sole purpose of the “Digital Innovation Challenge for Women 2016” is to create an interest in technology among the women in Bangladesh. We have arranged this type of competition for the first time in Bangladesh to encourage women to come into the tech world and motivate them for the future. A total of 248 women participated from all over Bangladesh, representing 49 different projects. The event lasted one and half months – it started on January 28th, 2016 and finished on March 8th, 2016, on International Women’s Day.
During the initial phase, 32 teams among the 49 teams had been pre-selected. The first presentation for these teams was held on 20th February. The teams were assigned with different local mentors for proper supervision in order to develop their ideas into a working prototype with a full proof business plan. The ideas included solving issues in fields like medical, security, traffic education, etc. Later, 21 teams have been shortlisted for the second phase and their presentation was held on February 27th. Finally, 13 of the teams continued into the finals and all of them had their presentation done on 5th March. On the final day of the event, March 8th, the top three teams were awarded. But every participant facilitated from the event.
Through this initiative, the organizers are hopeful to create a new bunch of female leaders and entrepreneurs with skills that are necessary for the girls to pitch their own business ideas in the future: create teams and also develop any solution from scratch which covers everything from planning to execution of the solution in terms of technological development, business development and marketing and sales. The organizers also hope to increase the morale and confidence among the participants to tackle any problems in the society through technological means.
Was it a success? Will you do it again?
Nila: Yes! It’s a 100% successful project for us. We will do it every year in Bangladesh and if possible we will arrange it globally, too.
What are your next steps? In WIDBD? Do you plan other initiatives or events?
Nila: Right now, we are concentrating on our digital production and further application development. We are also finding and developing community leads all over Bangladesh and also finding women from other countries who want to work with us with the same business idea, logo and follow all of our activities. We have planned a lot of Tech-events in Bangladesh for the upcoming years.
What motivates you in the morning to really go full speed and not to give up in difficult situations?
Nila: I am working for me and I love my work. If I face any difficulties in my work, I think about my previous problems, how I overcame those and take inspiration from that.
Do you have a motto you live or work by?
Nila: Be the reason for someone’s smiles today and be an inspiration!
Who inspires you personally?
Nila: I am inspired by myself. 🙂
If you could send a message to women in the world in one sentence, what would you tell them?
Nila: Be confident with your own strengths and Know-how – sell yourself first, then your product.
What do you do to refuel?
Nila: Take a break and start working again.
Nila, thank you so much for taking time and sharing your thoughts and experiences with us!
Bildquelle: © Nila Achia