So I’ve talked briefly before about how amazing Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general are. But I haven’t really explained enough about why, or how much they can really change the world.
You see, Bitcoin has enormous potential to revolutionize everything about how we save and exchange value, and really, how we live and thrive as human beings. This is particularly true for people in the developing world, who struggle with rights as basic as earning a living and being able to keep what they earn.
In Afghanistan, this is especially difficult for women, where social and economic barriers prohibit women from gaining an education and earning their own income. Even if they do manage to earn any money, it’s in cash, which can be incredibly dangerous for women to carry on them as they walk home. And then once they get home, the family often takes most of what they earned, and the women have no way of making sure they get to keep it for themselves.
That is, until now – until Bitcoin and a company called the Women’s Annex Foundation (WAF). This revolutionary non-profit organization offers computer labs for women to share their skills and knowledge around blog writing, software development, video production and social media, and earn Bitcoin in return for their work, along with free Web access in a safe place, and a chance to further their education with each other. As co-founder Fereshteh Forough says,
“We want to teach the girls how they can use education combining the tools that they have – social media and technology – and create their own sustainable economy.”
In Afghanistan, WAF has over 2,000 users who are paid in Bitcoin. And the beauty with Bitcoin is that there is no bank or central authority the girls need to deposit it into in order to keep it safe and have access to the funds. The user holds all the ownership themselves, and doesn’t need any third party approval or anyone else to set up a Bitcoin wallet. Before these women would have had to open a bank account, requiring extensive documentation and often legal guardian approval as well, making it all too easy for others to control the funds in their accounts.
But now with Bitcoin, these women can keep total, totally secret control of the money they earn at WAF. They get paid almost instantly to their Bitcoin wallets, with lower fees than with a bank account, and with more control and privacy. As Matthew Kenahan, an active member of the Bitcoin community and big supporter of WAF adds,
“If the WAF can provide a platform in which women can have their own income – a platform which pays out in bitcoin, a truly pseudonymous protocol which can truly conceal the identity, I think that we have the potential to really shake things up.”
Bitcoin is immensely empowering for these women. And WAF is helping that empowerment take a big step in the right direction. But there is still so much further to go, and so much more than can be achieved. Fereshteh Forough has a vision of what this could look like, and how Bitcoin can continue to drive this change.
“It’s the concept of digital citizenship, or communication without borders, and that’s how technology empowers people. I always wanted to have this for women in Afghanistan – to be powered using education and technology.”
Bitcoin means independence and empowerment for these women – the ability to earn and own their own education and income. And that is truly a remarkable thing. It’s a lot of responsibility and self-reliance. But for many of these women, that’s something they’ve been starved for and longing to have. We here in the developed world may not understand quite as acutely how hard it can be to not have these basic human rights. But for these women in Afghanistan, it’s been a long time coming. And now, with today’s incredible advances in technology and digital currency, it’s within their grasp.
After all, WAF’s motto is “No politics, just Internet”.