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When Coding Led To Confidence

Meet Asra Begum, a shy business aspirant, who found confidence in the heart of a visual programming language.

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Asra Begum of Hyderabad describes her childhood as one filled with love and care. She remembers growing up surrounded by a loving, supportive family. Asra also recalls how introverted and shy she was as a young girl. It was difficult for her to make new friends, or talk to people she did not know. 

“I used to take so much time to decide!” she says. “I didn’t like group work, and felt tired after being with a crowd. I was comfortable being alone.”

In 2018, the STEM for Girls team from Quest Alliance and IBM (India) visited Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Girls’ High School, Nampally in Telangana, where Asra studied in the 9th standard. The STEM for Girls project is an initiative that introduces coding and digital literacy in government secondary schools

Asra had a newfound inspiration. “2019 was the year when my progress started,” Asra remembers. Along with her classmates, she learnt about her own interests and abilities. Slowly, Asra began to know more about self-esteem, and the aspirations she has for herself. Her favorite was Scratch, a block-based, visual programming language for young learners. Through Scratch, she learnt to express herself. She believes that STEM for Girls helped her find a secure self. “I feel ready for everyday challenges, such as performances, competitions, and surprise tests,” she says. She found herself growing more confident, with courage to ask for help when she needed it. Asra knows that she is honest, and can communicate effectively with patience and leadership. 

After finishing secondary school, she wanted to continue her studies. Asra opted to study commerce at Maulana Azad Memorial Government Model Junior College for Girls after giving considerable thought to her own interests in economics and marketing as well as the recommendations of her elders.

“I watched the reality TV show, Shark Tank. Most of the entrepreneurs there who form the judges’ panel, have studied humanities or commerce,” narrates Asra. Finding role models in them, and with more research, she decided that pursuing commerce aligns well with her interests. However, she truly discovered herself when she explored the ‘Who Am I’ session in the STEM for Girls curriculum. Using that as her foundation, she knew that she never wanted to be arrogant! Instead, she wanted to help make other people happy. 

When her parents nudged her to take up science at college, she felt that a different stream might be more beneficial for her. She researched more about current market trends, and decided that commerce would be the best path forward. Today, she is completing her Bachelor in Business Administration from Indra Priyadarshini Government Degree College, Hyderabad, with dreams of securing an MBA degree in future. She is targeting a good job through campus placement, where she will be able to enjoy equal opportunities with other men and women, though she knows that male and female employees often get paid differently. 

Her parents dream that she will complete her studies, and go on to become the CEO of a company. Asra aspires to be self-sufficient and independent, and she wants to give back to society and her parents more than she has received. She says, “I should graduate on time, and help someone else who is going through a difficult time.” 

She still has Scratch 2.0 on her laptop, and often shows her younger cousins how to drag and drop code blocks to make a project. 

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Asra Begum

Alumni, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Girls’ High School, Nampally, Telangana

“I feel ready for everyday challenges.”