When Roya was a teenager living in Herat, Afghanistan, she was unable to access the internet. Her community did not accept women being around men they were not related to. This prevented her from entering internet cafes. When Roya was finally able to watch her cousin surf the internet and use Yahoo Messenger, she found her calling. She believed that this technology had the power to liberalize millions of women and improve their lives.
Roya was fortunate to be able to enroll in the United Nations Development Program that offered Information Technology courses for women. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Herat University. The following year, Roya used money she saved to start the first female-owned IT firm in her country. She struggled to overcome discrimination in raising money and getting clients. She could have left Afghanistan and instead she was determined to stay true to her mission.
The 26 year old Roya Mahboob’s company, Afghan Citadel Software, now employs 25 people including 18 women. Her employees develop software for private companies, government ministries and NATO. Roya is also building 40 free Internet-enabled classrooms in Afghanistan to enable more than 160,000 female students to connect to the world. In addition, Roya founded a blog and video site in 2011 called Women’s Annex. The site empowers women by educating them online and offers them a platform to share their stories.
Roya’s success has resulted in her receiving threatening phone calls and text messages. Roya believed that going to the police for this would be pointless saying they would “just laugh or do nothing”. At first she thought it was the Taliban, then she realized it’s just people around her that don’t approve. “We want to bring changes to our society. Unfortunately, women in most of society are seen as second to men and we are trying to be accepted as human beings and be equal. I hope that all women in Afghanistan one day can be financially independent and have equal rights”, says Roya.
For Sonia From the Bronx, her mission was to become a judge. Her mission helped lead her from a poor public housing project in the South Bronx to the bench on the U.S. Supreme Court. For Roya’s mission, it has provided enough focus to overcome challenges, manage adversity and see the big picture. The success of her mission so far was enough to be recognized by Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Person of 2013”.
To achieve a dream or big idea like Roya’s, it may require several solutions that all serve the same mission. Each solution addresses a problem or unmet need of the beneficiaries (i.e., women of Afghanistan). Each solution needs to be made operational and communicated. For Roya, she has already achieved 5 solutions with more likely to come:
College Degree – This is no small feat in modern day Afghanistan. She knew she required a degree to start a company that would help to improve lives of women.
Company – She had to raise money, get clients and deliver a value to clients. She had to figure out how to make money and keep employees and clients happy.
Internet Classrooms – She had to raise money, find partners, develop relationships with schools, implement cost-effect solutions to maximize the number of girls getting access to the internet.
Online Platform – She partnered with FilmAnnex and recruited volunteers to build the platform and get the message out.
Role Model – She is a role model for women, entrepreneurs and others hoping to change a culture. She could have emigrated west to a more conducive environment with less discrimination and more potential clients.
The development of solutions toward a mission brings frustrations and uncertainty from the many trials and errors. It requires dealing with rejection and discouragement in trying to make change happen. Yet the mission can be a source of strength and comfort from the intrinsic benefits during the pursuit:
Purpose – Is it possible to experience a higher sense of purpose enabling a mission to improve millions of women’s lives?
Connected and Loved – Roya’s employees, girls getting connected to the internet and women using the online platform must adore her.
Control – Roya is one of the few Afghan women that drive a car. Her success has afforded her abilities few of her peers have experienced.
Opportunity – Each of her successes, including Time’s recognition, provides additional opportunity for Roya to achieve her overall mission.
Competence/Success – Roya must feel good each time these solutions become a reality. Who doesn’t enjoy winning?
Accomplishment/Pride – She must take pride in the hope she has created for the girls and women in Afghanistan.
Confidence – She must feel confident she can make almost any difficult change happen
We have only begun to see what Roya’s mission will achieve. It may even take another generation to understand the impact upon the teenage Afghan girls now surfing the internet or reading about Roya. To achieve a dream, big idea or breakthrough innovation, it helps to have a mission. Whether it is a mission like Roya’s or to graduate from college, it could be what helps you make almost anything happen.