More than half of the 6 million school-aged child refugees have no school to attend, and refugee girls who stay at home are the especially vulnerable to early marriage, human trafficking, and child labor. Refugee girls continually face difficulties in advancing their education, whether it is the shortage of school venues or their safety during their commute to school.

We believe that access to education for girls is a right for these girls, not just a privilege. We aim to empower refugee girls through education. Educated girls contribute to reduced rates of child marriage, teen pregnancy and maternal and infant mortality. Education is also the catalyst to their personal growth.

We envision a solution that is powered by Facebook and social media, facilitated by the technology of intelligent chatbots, to kick-start the spirit of community-driven learning and teaching for successive generations of refugee women. It would be a central learning platform where they would receive guidance, knowledge and interact without being constrained in times of crisis.

What it does

We want to bring community-driven education amongst refugee girls through the Facebook platform. Refugee girls would inform the Facebook Messenger chatbot of their education status, educational needs and aspirations, and the chatbot would link up users with similar profiles and learning interests to form virtual communities as Facebook groups, each focused on mutual learning and sharing of educational resources for a specific domain (e.g. Conversational English for Grade 1-3).

How we built it

We use Facebook Messenger as the front-end chat interface for users to communicate with a chatbot. Users’ messages are processed by our NodeJS & Express back-end hosted on our own Linux servers. To handle natural language processing and track chat state for the chatbot, we trained an API.AI agent specific for this use case.

Challenges we ran into

One challenge we faced is deciding the method of delivery of education resources. There are education resources available online but we feel that girls need to be able to interact with others to help guide them and provide them a holistic education.

Another challenge we had was the integration of API.AI into our solution. It was our team’s first time using its services and API, We spent a large amount of time learning and figuring out how the API work. Just when we felt that we were almost done with our solution, we realised we made a mistake on the use of the API. This was a challenge as we had limited time to resolve the issue. However through the combined effort of the team, we manage to correct the error and solved our issues.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We feel really excited to see our efforts come into fruition of a solution that harness technological prowess to enable access to education for the less privileged girls. Most importantly, we are eager for our product to potentially catalyse changes in their lives.

What we learned

With technology readily available to us, it seems alluring to begin by conceptualising fanciful technology, and finding a use case. However, we learnt that it is prudent to begin with a problem or an unmet needs, and seek ways in which technology can alleviate or solve them. In addition, we also come to recognise and better appreciate the significance of teamwork and tasks delegation, especially when working with the constraints of time. Throughout the whole process, we also witnessed synergy at play, in which our combined efforts enabled us to achieve much more than we possibly could have individually. In short, we are really heartened to have had this experience together, doing something meaningful and improving the lives of the refugee girls, who will one day be future leaders of society.

What's next for girls4Change

Strategic Partnership We envision the formation of strategic partnership with global organizations to strengthen our foothold in more communities. This again emphasises our desire to help empower more women to become leaders of these small learning communities, and eventually leaders of sufficient capacity to champion and drive fundamental change for the larger community. We also see opportunities to partner with learning institutions and knowledge centers such as Coursera to provide quality materials to facilitate advancement of education.

A/B testing Through A/B testing, we aim to understand the demographics and characteristics of the refugee, which will enable us to craft solution that will tackle the refugee’s core issues and eventually, better address their needs. At the same time, these data will be useful for our course provider partners to generate relevant content that is pertinent to the needs of the women refugee.

Scalability We want the solution to be usable in multiple countries across language barriers. This could be achieved through natural language processing where we could normalize each language for the AI logic to be understand. We would also hope to be able to partner with education organisations to help us provide resources and training to achieve our community goals.

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