More than half of the world’s 25.9 million refugees are under the age of 18. On World Refugee Day, June 20, SAP honors the courage, strength, social justice, and tolerance of all who have been forced to flee their homes under the threat of persecution, conflict, and violence by empowering youth with coding skills inside refugee communities across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

“A refugee is someone who survived and who can create the future.”

–Amela Koluder

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), education and work in the MENA region will determine the livelihoods of more than 300 million people along with driving growth and development for generations to come. However, the current reality in the job market is economically unsustainable.

Batoul Husseini is the director of Government Affairs for the Middle East North and and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) lead for MENA at SAP. She is both ambitious and innovative, a digital inclusion trailblazer.

Husseini is responsible for the strategic development of the company’s government relations activities, promoting both technological transformation in the public sector and the positive role played by digital technologies in addressing economic and societal challenges around the world.

Husseini launched Refugee Code Week in 2016 at the World Humanitarian Summit. It is now known as Digital Skills for Today, a CSR collaboration among SAP, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Injaz Al Arab, ReBootKamp, and Re:Coded. While providing digital skills and training for refugees and youths, Digital Skills for Today also strives to train local nationals to meet the current market demand for skilled professionals in information and communications technology (ICT), the fastest-growing sector of the economy.

“The initiative took off,” she says. “During my visits to host coding workshops at different refugee camps, I saw how little things can be everything and beauty can be created from nothing. People used art to normalize the desert-like environment, they painted nature and water scenes on camp fences, and discarded bottles were repurposed as flowerpots. Nothing was taken for granted.”

Digital Skills for Today addresses several critical regional challenges, including youth unemployment, inadequate workforce readiness, social injustice, and a lack of digital skills training. It provides training for youth as they rebuild their lives with tolerance, courage, and perseverance.

“Especially in and around conflict zones, youth often face limited employment prospects and an inadequate or non-existent education system,” Husseini explains. “The initiative directly improves quality of life for beneficiaries by providing in-demand skills for the 21st century job market. Furthermore, it has valuable social outcomes, decreasing unemployment rates in marginalized populations and providing long-term opportunities for digital innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The program is also about helping young people, including refugees, leapfrog their situation through intensive code training that leads to job placement. This is why SAP works with ReBootKamp and re:Coded to turn literacy into expertise and expertise into employment.

“The initiative has introduced coding to over 45,000 young refugees and nationals across 14 countries since it was launched in 2016,” Husseini adds. “More than 900 graduates have found gainful employment in Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Bringing about new skills and expertise in conflict-affected areas is essential to the development and reconstruction of those regions. We aim to reveal the many potential coding heroes that only lack the opportunity to improve their lives and build their own future. Our hands-on learning material and training sessions allow quick insertion into the workforce, thus shaping an entire generation of tech-savvy professionals.”

Passionate about communications and language, Husseini speaks Arabic, English, and Dutch, and has a master’s degree in international business along with holding various qualifications in economics, business administration and computer information systems.

Her work with refugees has only cemented her desire to utilize digital platforms to make a difference. In recognition of her goal to increase ICT awareness both locally and globally, Husseini was named the World Summit Awards special ambassador to Asia and she works closely with the organization to achieve its mission: promoting the world’s best e-content and innovative ICT applications and ultimately contributing to a true knowledge society.

“Today, I have a deep appreciation that everything I have is a privilege and I could lose it through no fault of my own,” she shares. “Growing up in Syria, I learned the importance of standing up for others and felt compelled to make a bigger impact. SAP provided me with this opportunity, and for this year I’m excited to announce our virtual volunteering opportunities for staff, where they can provide expert skills and guidance to our NGOs and partners on the ground.”

In closing, Husseini adds, “World Refugee Day is an incredibly significant day. Together with our partners, we can raise empathy, mobilize action, showcase solidarity, and create inclusion for minority groups — all to ultimately improve people’s lives and make the world run better.”

For information about Digital Skills for Today, visit digitalskillsfortoday.org.