CTEK Sends Out RFP to Support the MENA Women Initiative

Request for Proposal

MENA Women Coding as Entrepreneurs

May 2019

  1. CTEK

CTEK is a non-profit based out of Boulder, Colorado, USA, with the mission to break down barriers to entrepreneurship worldwide through a number of regional and global initiatives. Founded by the former president of the Techstars Foundation, Lu Córdova, CTEK builds unique partnerships with individuals, nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses to achieve their collective goal to help underserved entrepreneurs.

With each initiative, CTEK first crafts a broad objective and then conducts research to find those individuals and organizations who address the various aspects needed to fulfil an initiative. This is an iterative first step as research reveals important substance and nuance that often results in an evolution of the initiative to be practical and achievable within constraints.

CTEK then invites potential collaborators together to refine a program that results in a Request For Proposal to find a lead individual or organization that will be funded to develop the program needed to move the initiative to its eventual launch, refinement and expansion.


CTEK’s Women in the MENA initiative aims to involve more women in entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region through an educational platform that couples technical skills, such as coding, with business skills that will allow them to form online, outsourcing businesses. Women in the MENA sometimes face barriers to entrepreneurship due to religious and cultural norms, and this program will allow them to honor their chosen traditions while still competing in the world wide entrepreneurial ecosystem.


Less than one-third of women in the MENA region participate in the labor force, which is less than most regions in the world [1]. This labor gap leaves a large space for development and growth in the economic growth of this region, provided that women are allowed access to enter. Though heavy investment in social spheres have decreased fertility rates and improved health literacy, this has not rendered higher employment among women.

MENA governments, on average, have spent over 5% GDP on education in the last decades [2]. In primary schools, there are about 9 girls enrolled for every 10 boys. In secondary school, there is only about a 3% enrollment gap between girls and boys, however, this is accompanied by heavy dropout rates, primarily because of early marriage and familial duties [3]. Regardless, there are still many countries, such as Oman, where females outnumber males in universities.

In Omani engineering schools, up to 75% of enrolled students are females [4]. The high enrollment of women in university starkly contrasts with only 20-30% of women obtaining a job, though trends indicate that women often outperform men at the collegiate level [2]. Though the government is investing in female education, there are persistent social and economic barriers in place to prevent educated women from pursuing careers, including double-digit unemployment in much of the region.

Countries that are abundant in natural resources tend to have lower female participation in the economy, while countries that do not have natural resources tend to have higher female participation. This is with the exception of the West Bank, Jordan, and Gaza. During the oil boom of the 1970s, it was possible to support a family on one income. However, this became increasingly difficult in the 1980s, and men were given preference for the limited amount of jobs available. [2]. The notion that only men should be employed limits a country’s ability to compete in an increasingly service-based and technical global economy. Excluding women simply is not a viable option—the International Monetary Fund reports that if the MENA region had closed the gender employment gap between 2000 and 2011, they would have seen 1 trillion dollars in additional output [5]. Women are a vastly untapped resource that would add monumental value to the economies of the MENA region.


There are two broad problems to tackle: (i) increasing female participation in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and (ii) doing it in a way that is sustainable and overcomes the unique challenges that women in the MENA face.

A 2017 study surveyed 254 female business students in Jordan, and found that they did not have an educational system that supports entrepreneurship or concrete initiatives. The study further reported that this type of education increased fear of entrepreneurship and decreased empowerment in the students, who were already faced with a saturated job market and limited opportunities [6].

Supporting female entrepreneurship is the answer to involve women in the economy: it creates new jobs and paves a path that successive generations of women can follow. An effective way to involve women in entrepreneurship is through an online platform that teaches women coding as a business, which can stand alone or be paired with a women-only business incubator. This model creates connections, promotes online bonding that reaches remote areas, and teaches a skill that can be utilized whether women are doing it from an office or from home, as an employee or a founder-entrepreneur. The online aspect allows flexibility for women to learn at their own pace and molds around family responsibilities. It allows economic development to reach beyond city centers as entrepreneurship is proven as the fastest method to sustainable growth and alleviation of poverty.


CTEK will select and fund one organization that will create a program that will address the following requirements:

  1. Curriculum: Teaching a unique blend of coding skills as well as entrepreneurship and business formation and operation. Four Courses must be developed where each can be taught within 50-hour segments, with 40 hours of teaching and 10 hours of experiential practice. The segments are as follows:
    1. Testing: Students learn the basic concepts of coding but focus on testing other companies code as a way to start familiarizing themselves with the user experience. Students would learn how to read a spec, test on different devices, and report on results. The goal at the end of this segment is that a student would be an apprentice, getting paid to test other developers applications.
    2. Specifications: Students learn how to work with clients to develop a spec, how coding functions to deliver on that spec. In this way, students learn a level deeper on what it takes to create software according to specifications. The goal at the end of this segment is that students could advance their apprenticeship to work with customers developing specs that would then be written by others. They would learn the basics of freelancing as well, and how to track their work, bill and account for it.
    3. Coding: PHP: Students would learn the basics of website development, as well as a deeper understanding of what it takes to start their own business. The goal of this segment is that students could start their own company building websites for customers. They would learn how to attract and work with customers, and track their own business.
    4. It is envisioned that future courses would include higher level coding as well as a teaching track so that students could teach others in their own country in their native tongue. For this purposes of this RFP, the curriculum would stop here after teaching website development.
  2. Connection: The program would have to incorporate methods to bring women together, if only digitally, as many of these women cannot leave their families to come to a city center for any length of time. Online exercises to increase bonding, visual contact with fellow students, and “buddy systems” for support during the program are some of the methods that might be employed.
  3. Practicum: The program would have to figure out how to build in the apprenticeships for the women, how to partner with developers looking to augment their staff with outsourced help, and how to bring in mentors to help the women employ their skills.


CTEK is looking to select a company to work with by June 30, 2019. The winning company would have June-August to develop the curriculum for a pilot to be run in September, 2019 in Oman. The winning company would be expected to travel throughout the MENA, running a pilot in each country, and “teaching the teachers” so that the program can be run by locals. Respondents must respond by June 15, 2019, with a proposal and:

  1. Include an outline of the curriculum and include how connection and practicum would be embedded in the program.
  2. Be a for-profit or nonprofit but not a government agency or tied to any political or religious group, can be located anywhere in the world, but able to travel to Oman in the Fall.
  3. Have a track record of teaching, especially teaching women, entrepreneurship and business.
  4. Speak and write fluent English.
  5. Include a budget broken out into the time to develop the curriculum and separately for time to teach on a per-country basis (assume 2 weeks in-country to acclimate, set up tran and teach).

This initial RFP is intentionally left broad in scope as we seek creative ideas and platforms to accomplish the mission which is to serve women of the MENA who can not leave home to attend intensive study programs and have limited time for study.

CTEK invites those with an interest in this program to contact Ritika Reddy, Initiative Manager. She can be reached at Ritika.Reddy@CTEK.org or though the office phone at 720-808-1700 x 503. We will endeavor to answer any questions and we look forward to receiving your Proposal.



[1]Labor force, female (% of total labor force). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.TOTL.FE.ZS

[2]Gender and Development in the Middle East and North Africa: Women in the Public Sphere. (2004). Retrieved October 14, 2018, from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/976361468756608654/pdf/281150PAPER 0Gender010Development0in0MNA.pdf

[3] Regional Report October 2014 on Out-Of-School Children. Unicef, Oct. 2014, uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/regional-report-on-out-of-school-children- middle-east-and-north-africa-2015-en.pdf.

[4] Hasan, D. (2016, September 04). More Omani Females than Males in College This Year. Retrieved from https://timesofoman.com/article/91820

[5] Regional Economic Outlook Update: Middle East and Central Asia. (2013, November 12).

Retrieved October 14, 2018, from https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/REO/MECA/Issues/2017/01/07/Regional- Economic-Outlook-Middle-East-and-Central-Asia6

[6]Mehtap, S., Pellegrini, M. M., Caputo, A., & Welsh, D. H. (2017). Entrepreneurial intentions of young women in the Arab world. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research,23(6), 880-902. doi:10.1108/ijebr-07-2017-0214

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