In Afghanistan payment processing can be quite difficult. PayPal does not operate in Afghanistan, and while Western Union is available, its fees are very costly. Fereshteh Forough – founder of Code to Inspire (CTI) – said that to deal with the issue of payment CTI turned its attention to Bitcoin.
“With my former foundation Digital Citizen Fund, we used to pay our content providers in Afghanistan through our corporate partner BitLanders, which was formerly known as Film Annex, in U.S. dollars,” she said. “The majority of users were girls who were too young to have a bank account or they were unbanked, so to make the payment process faster and more reliable, with lower fees per transaction, we switched to paying our users in Bitcoin.”
The use of Bitcoin is an important initiative for Code to Inspire, as it provides women in developing countries with a powerful tool that enables them to connect quickly and affordably with the global economy.
Not only are women in Afghanistan gaining access to an education, but where it is taboo for women to step out of their doors unattended, Bitcoin allows them to fully participate in the world.
Code to Inspire’s objective is financial inclusion, which is not just about having a bank account. For an economy to be inclusive, women need equal access to opportunity, which is where the nonprofit is making headway.
“What social media did for communication, cryptocurrency promises to do for women’s autonomy. In a society that lacks banks, blockchain technology like Bitcoin offers a secure, transparent way to add value,” said Forough. “Most importantly, it affords those marginalized by the brick-and-mortar finance system a chance to participate in the economy on their own terms.”
While it is easy for women in Afghanistan to sign up to access Bitcoin, Forough notes that there are challenges within the country that make it difficult for people to embrace digital currencies.
“There is no platform that can support converting Bitcoin to Afghanistan’s currency,” she said.
This, however, seems to be a minor issue considering the massive strides that Afghanistan has made for gender equality over the past 15 years. Once women were barred from receiving an education, working outside the home or even dressing as they saw fit.