A group of six teenage Afghan girls was finally granted permission into the U.S. for a robotics tournament after a last-minute intervention by President Trump. The group was previously twice denied access into the U.S. to compete in the tournament. The decision by President Trump may offer the girls increased opportunity for progress in war-torn Afghanistan, historically known for oppressing women.
After tirelessly working for six months to build their robot, six teen girls from Afghanistan were denied access into the U.S. to compete in the international robotics tournament in Washington, D.C., as reported by Associated Press. The girls relentlessly attempted to enter the U.S. to take part in the competition, even traveling five hundred miles to the U.S. embassy in Kabul – a territory largely controlled by the Taliban. Even in Kabul, their visas were denied, the AP explains. President Trump, however, made a last minute decision to allow the girls to compete in the U.S. tournament.
Afghanistan has long repressed the educational opportunities and progress of women. As reported by National Public Radio, one of the fifteen-year-old competitors explained the importance of President Trump’s decision to allow the Afghan team to compete in Washington, D.C.:
Afghanistan is a war-torn country where it is difficult for women to improve. But now this is a big chance for us to attend in the competitions and also it’s good for our country.
President Trump’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump and Counselor Kellyanne Conway took to Twitter to also celebrated the Afghan girl’s entry into the U.S. for the competition.
The Gambian team was also finally granted entry into the competition after first being denied into the U.S. The team created a robot designed to clean contaminated river water, a significant innovation in many poor African villages. In an interview with BBC News, the seventeen-year-old Gambian team leader Fatoumata Ceesay explained the importance of the competition for Gambian women, “I hope to come back with knowledge and inspiration to give young Gambians, especially the girls.” The opportunity offered to the Afghan and Gambian girls from the U.S. competition may aid in bringing necessary change and progress to the respective countries.
First Global, a non-profit organization that aims to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects among high school students, is sponsoring the international robotics tournament in Washington, D.C. In a statement released on the website, First Global President Joe Sestak also expressed excitement for the high school students broadcasting their groundbreaking innovations:
Because of the professional leadership of the U.S. State Department, not only Afghanistan and Gambia, but also Yemen, Libya, Vanuatu and Morocco received approval for participation this week. As a result, all 163 teams from 157 countries have gained approval to the United States, including Iran, Sudan, and a team of Syrian refugees. I could not be more proud.
The reason for the initial denial of access into the U.S. for the Afghan and Gambian teams is unclear since neither country is part of the U.S. travel ban. Moreover, competitors from countries under the travel ban were granted access to compete in the competition. The melting pot of the U.S. has offered an opportunity to the student competitors from repressive nations who merely wish to progress science for the betterment of mankind.