Fatemah Qaderyan is the captain and spokesperson of Afghanistan’s all-female high school robotics team, which attracted global attention when the girls were initially denied visas to participate in a robotics competition in the United States. The team was ultimately allowed entry into the country just days before the FIRST Global Challenge international robotics contest in Washington, D.C., and they received a silver medal for Courageous Achievement. Days after returning to Afghanistan from the U.S., news broke that her father had been killed in an ISIS-related bombing. Still, Qaderyan continues to pursue a career in robotics, because her father always encouraged her to study hard and stay brave. The robotics team went on to win first place for their prototype at the Robotex Festival in Estonia. Now, Qaderyan hopes to encourage more young Afghan women to join STEM fields and raise awareness about the importance of women’s education in Afghanistan.
Qaderyan is 16 years old, and is currently an 11th grade student at Mehri High School in Herat, Afghanistan. She wrote her first book, “My Afghanistan,” at the age of 13 and is currently working on a second book. She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including Inspire Minds’ Humanity in Artificial Intelligence award, the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge Award, and the Janet Ivey Permission to Dream Award. Qaderyan’s team is organized by the Digital Citizen Fund, an international nonprofit that helps girls and women gain access to technology. The robotics team is headed by Afghanistan’s first female tech CEO and former OFF speaker, Roya Mahboob.