Polio / Popularity / Poverty

Have you heard of the WHO sanction on Pakistanis traveling abroad? Because we have been unable to curb the polio virus so whenever we travel abroad we need to show a certificate saying we had been vaccinated. So I went to get my polio certificate. Didn’t take copy of my passport. Had to go out and find a scanner. Got the copy. Went back to the vaccination “cell” (what else do you call a 4X4 room?). Had to wait outside with some 50 other people because they were “fixing something” in the office. Half an hour later, I am ushered in. I asked if I could have a selfie taken while getting the drops. Request denied. They said it would end up on social media and media has been a huge problem these days. So. NO! Alrighty! Get the drops. They taste horrible. Then I am told to come back 3 hours later. Huh? WHY? Because the department head who has to sign the certificate has gone to his children’s school and won’t be back for a few hours. *facepalm*

Polio Vaccination at Airports

Polio Vaccination at Airports

Anyway … so am traveling to Dubai soon for an Ashoka Changemakers Conference. This is for the Women Powering Work competition where I won the Early Entry prize. There is no love lost between Dubai and me. Hate the city. Strangely enough, I quite liked the neighboring Abu Dhabi. But Dubai is racist. You can feel the vibe. The sheikhs looking down on you. Even the shopkeepers and hotel receptionists. Abu Dhabi in comparison was pretty friendly. But a free trip to meet Ashoka reps is always something to be mega excited about. No more whining.

Had a wonderful Orientation session at Pakistan’s oldest women college, Lahore College for Women University. Am conducting digital livelihood workshops next week for the British Council “Active Citizen Program” students and the college management felt it was important to have an intro. Girls seemed to enjoy it and had lots of questions to ask which is always a good sign. I think what they liked and related to most was the case studies I gave them of various women who were working online doing different kinds of work. For that I am ever grateful to Salma Jafri, Haleema Mohammad and Ambreen Tariq. These ladies answered the long list of questions I sent them and even went on to share their monthly earnings with us ;) Now I just feel poor. :D

Best part was the girls lining up to have their photographs with me. I felt so important. haha Will post pictures when I have them.

So what’s new with you guys / girls? Everyone is always so quiet. Say something. Add a comment. I love to hear from everyone.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

Loaded Diaper and Gru

A couple of things on my mind that I need to trash away onto these virtual pages. But before I do that, here is some happiness for you ;)

1. It sucks that I am unable to provide work to all the women, and in some cases men, who approach me almost daily via Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages etc. I try. God knows I try. Five years and I have been working to do just that. But unfortunately I don’t have enough work. Not right now. That’s the goal. It disturbs and agitates me greatly that I can’t connect everyone to work. Please don’t judge if I don’t respond to all of you. What am I supposed to say? Plus, I am grateful to the support and encouragement all of you have shown me – I truly am. However, if you want to point someone in my direction for advice, kindly don’t share my personal phone number. The best way to reach me is via email which is maria@womensdigitalleague.com.

2. Competition is awesome. It keeps you on your toes, gets you thinking about ways to improve what you do, and I could go on.

Negative Competition is a Loaded Diaper

Negative Competition is a Loaded Diaper

However, there is a fine line between being competitive and being vicious. A wise person once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I am no saint and can’t say I don’t mind who gets credit for my hard work but at the end of the day of it helps make someones life better and I become a mere tool in the way, I’ll make my peace with it. But remember, stealing, lying, cheating, insincerity … they are like loaded diapers (been watching Diary of a Wimpy Kids almost on loop). You may cover up the stench for only a while but unless you stop being lazy and get up and change it and dispose off it properly, it will just keep on getting worse. In the long run, people will find out what you are doing.

3. A little about Twitter, politics, and teenagers. Internet is awesome. It lets you have a voice. It makes you realize you are not alone in your craziness. However, I’ve noticed how without some guidance and even coaching, young people can get quite lost. With great power comes great responsibility. Activating the “youth” and making them a part of social change is a stellar idea. But I am seeing that you also need to be careful how you empower them. Leaving them on their own just creates anarchy … sorta like the Lord of the Flies. Faceless people without much knowledge and hiding behind pseudonyms but with power can be really dangerous. Political parties tapping into these energetic youngsters wanting a change in their country also need to do it carefully through constant nurturing and educating.

4. 3 years. I miss you my Artemis/10k friends. :)

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

Harassment, Internet Censorship, And Kindness

I am mad as hell today. Actually been that way the past few days. I am not going into details except that I have threatened an expose on the harassment that takes place in the highest echelons of Pakistan’s tech sector. Am sure it happens in all spheres and in all countries but still … does that make it OK? NO.

Does anyone have ANY idea how hard it is in Pakistan for a woman to go out and get a job and pursue a career? What she doesn’t need is some ancient (grand)father figure or a sicko suffering from a horrible case of the mid-life crisis coming onto them with disgusting lines and propositions. Some of us are strong enough to give them a piece of our mind and walk away. But for majority of women its not easy. They get easily confused, start doubting themselves, even blaming themselves thinking they must have said something to encourage that kind of behavior. To you I say, ladies, you have nothing to be afraid of. If you feel uncomfortable with someone it’s because they are making you so and you have every right to let them know. If they still don’t back off, a hard smack across the face works wonders. But if you want to go for something subtle, you can seek help from various organizations in Pakistan such as AASHA, and still others that allow you to post your complaints anonymously.

^ was number one reason why I was mad. Here is Reason Number 2.

Internet Ban Pakistan

 

(Noorani = spiritual)

The stupid IT Ministry keeps banning everything. First YouTube, then Skype to phone calls, then the tinkering with Google itself. Recently they tried to ban IMDb. WHAT THE HELL! I mean why don’t we just give up the charade and just go back and start living in the caves since the original cave-inhabitants have already been “smoked out” and are now using cell phones and Internet to carry on with whatever they do. And so to protect us innocent peeps, government needs to block everything. Hurray! Better start buying caves … am sure property prices will rise significantly in Tora Bora soon enough. *grrrr

Phew … that felt good. Now with all that venom out of the way you ask … “Dudette, we know you are super awesome but how do you manage it? Like despite all the obvious and not-so-obvious challenges how do you go on being your legendary self?” To this I say, “I know sista’ friends. It’s a lil hard to believe any one person can have so much talent, killer good looks, and etc. But a few good men (okay, “people”) is all you need to keep going.” OK seriously. Just finding a few good people really makes a difference. Most people you come across turn out to be complete jerks. But the handful are such a pleasure they take away all the bitterness and negativity the majority try to bring into your life. Let me give you an example.

I needed a kick a** presentation for this accelerator in CA, USA (details later, my lovelies). Now we all know I am no good with that stuff. So wrote to random ppl asking for help. So many rose to the occasion … some being complete strangers. It was so heartwarming I tell you. And this is what keeps me going and believing and dreaming and keeps me optimistic.

OK enough … byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Snippets from Past Few Weeks

Been a bit disturbed and distracted lately. My country is going through a really tough time and it hurts me to see it that way. Growing up I always thought people hurt other people for money, power, position. Now I am finding out they also kill for God. And a God that they all believe in but each wants the other to believe in Him exactly the same way s/he does. It’s all very confusing. I was going through my Facebook feed and I came across a quote by Rumi that resonates so well with everything happening.

“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”

Anyway ……

I got great news today from the Hunza today. The NGO that I was working with to help bring digital work to the area has received grants to train 1500 locals in various kinds of online work. 60% of those trained are going to be women. I am so excited I can’t sit still. This area has 100% literacy rate in people 30 and below. They have advance, postgrad degrees from some of the top universities in Pakistan. If this works out, it’s going to be HUGE.

In other news, am thinking of registering TDL as a not-for-profit. Am a bit hesitant as the last effort to register as a sole proprietorship ended up with no results at all. If you know someone who can help me get it done with minimal hassle and a guarantee it will work out, get me in touch please.

Saw my beautiful guapa Amy after almost 2 years! I love technology and above all, Skype. We had a great video call reminiscing, laughing, planning, catching up. Wish everyone could understand that basic human feelings remain constant through every country, age, religion … if you are loved, won’t you love back? If you are respected, aren’t you gonna give it back? And if you are valued, will you respond any differently? I can never understand people who live in a different country but refuse to truly become a part of it because they are afraid of losing their identity or afraid of being treated badly. You receive what you give.

Pakistan mornings and Arizona nights were never filled with so much laughter!!!

Pakistan mornings and Arizona nights were never filled with so much laughter!!!

Ooohhh … had these lovely keychains made for TDL by the very talented Varah Musavvir of Firefly.

We Can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone.

The Digital League - Empowering Pakistan One Digital Task at a Time

The Digital League – Empowering Pakistan One Digital Task at a Time

The Beauties

The Beauties

Thought these would be great for some marketing and for friendly give-aways.

Welcoming guys into The Digital League is proving to be a blessing and a great move. I am a feminist at heart and will always give preference to women-SPs over male ones (sorry boys!) but let’s face it – not very many women know setting up CRM systems and playing with SVGs. So am really glad to have these boys on the team now. Something tells me I am going in the right direction finally and it feels good.

OK then ….

byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Warning: This Post Has Nothing To Do With Entrepreneurship!

Thursday, 22 November 2012.

A 17-yrs old student of FA Part II is dropped off by her father at her college. A while later she complains of chest pain. Within 15 minutes she is dead!

Maria Ayub was diagnosed with a serious heart problem at the age of 15. Most educational institutes require parents/guardians to state if their child/ward has any critical medical condition or allergies. I hope Jinnah College for Women, the top college for women in Peshawar, had that criterion on their form. Maria had been studying in the college for 2 years. Everyone knew of her illness.

Here is how the students present there describe the incident:

(She) started suffering which seemed to be a heart attack, early this morning at college, around 7:30am. The students say that they argued with the teachers asking them to take her to the hospital, but the teachers said they were not allowed to leave college without the college principal’s permission. The principal was not in college that early. They waited for 30 minutes till the girl breathed her last.

Teachers argue neither the nurse nor duty teacher were present that early since college starts at 8. If the college starts at 8 AM and staff does not reach until a quarter to 8, why are students allowed to go inside? Anything can happen! Like the 2 bombs that were recently disposed (November 13) at the Army Public School and College for Women in Peshawar.

Also, once teachers were informed, did they really have to wait for the Principal to come who was on casual leave that day?  Also, did the teachers have no idea Maria had a heart condition? If you undertake to take a critically ill student into your college shouldn’t you make it a point to inform all staff members about it in case of just such emergency? Why was no CPR given by the nurse? Aspirins are a common treatment for most heart diseases. Did none of the staff members think of it?

What horrifies me and makes me angry is not that Maria died. It was her time and even if someone had been there she couldn’t be helped. It’s the fact that someone with a mild problem who can easily be treated with timely treatment or through basic first aid would God-forbid be in danger of facing a similar fate.

And you know what’s ironical? Just some time before this incident the college imposed a ban on girls hugging other girls in case it … ummm … makes them sin (?!) The administration and management were both so busy saving those girls morals they neglected protecting their lives.

From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.” (H. P. Lovecraft)

PUHLEAZE PEOPLE

Yes, 2nd time in a row. You know my lovelies – I don’t do this – But I am desperate. And desperation makes you do strange things. But no, I am not “ashamed”. As Barney said and I reverently quote:

In my body where the shame gland is, I have second “Awesome” gland”

I NEED a VA who can provide support to a Malaysian-based startup. VERY cool people – Silicon valley can’t wait to get their hands on ‘em but being nearly as awesome as me and Barnacle dude, they obviously flip their hair and say “No”.

OK – so to the point.

Need a VA to work from home to work from 9 AM to 6 PM US Pacific Time. Good money – I assure you. US accent a must. Doesn’t matter what gender you are (or are not). Simple work for someone with common sense (ever wondered why its called “common sense”? Seems pretty uncommon to me).

If you know someone have him/her contact me ASAP. Of course want a Pakistani national. Come on my pretties – help a fellow girl in need. If you don’t like helping fellow humans, I am gonna try the “Puss In Boots” on you.

VA, virtual assistant, virtual assistants, virtual assistance, work online, work from home, vacancy

Thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

Pitch It Right, Ladies (and *reluctantly* Gentlemen)

Dear Yous, me has started a new blog … Pitch It Right. No No, wait … don’t worry … I am not giving up on PakiMom here. We got a good thing going … I’d never dessert you. *tear. Since I started posting stuff from others, my readership has gone up … getting a lot more hits. And people expect pearls of wisdom every time I open my mouth. And you know how that’s so not gonna happen. There are days when I want to vent. When I am down in the dumps and the world looks like an open sewer and I hate it and I want to kill everyone in it. With me going fancy shmancy with Google videos and biz plan competitions … people are intrigued. “There is a strike in town .. let’s see what PakiMom thinks of it”. “Oh no, rise in petrol prices … wonder what PakiMom has to say on this”. DUH!

Now you my lovelies know me. You get me. You leave me the hell alone and just come here quietly, silently … read my vents or just give me pretty little upward rising stat-graphs … and quietly support me. *tear (again). We are like Eeyore and Pooh – forever together.

how to become an entrepreneur, how to develop your startup, what are startups

But then … there is no denying the fact I have this geeky side that loves everything about my “flashing lights” peeps. As Rhett Butler famously said about Scarlett O’Hara (and I quote for my love for startups), “It’s like opium in my veins”. I just can’t stop no matter how hard I try. So I have decided … I am going to separate the fancy stuff from the real stuff. Geeky-goo goes onto PIR and the fabulosity that’s moi stays here where its most appreciated and where its cosy and homely.

But that does not mean I don’t want you going over yonder and telling me what you think. I trust and cherish your opinion. Does it look good? Do you like the latest post there from Hind Hobeika? Do you want to write for PIR? Want me to feature someone? LMK.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Update: PIR is dead.

A Mighty Fall!

Facebook upgrade

See the big squares with chrome’s msg? Those are the annoying ads that are too heavy for my 3.1 MB Internet connection to load.

Has anyone else got the huge big ads right in the middle of their Facebook profile page? ‘Coz I have and I am happy. Is this a way for Suckerberg to make up for the losses at the stock exchange? I dunno. That seems to be the only plausible explanation. I mean … come on dude … my Facebook profile is NOT a Classifieds page. If that’s what I wanted I would go elsewhere. Why FB?

I

AM

NOT

HAPPY!

Not at all.

In other news, Google won over some patent war against Samsung. Erm … sooooooo …. ??? *HeadScratch
The Rich, Famous and terribly Insecure will always baffle me.

Plus, who is this Romney dude/dudette? See the name everywhere but have never bothered to check. If you know – do tell me.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

I Don’t Want to be a Celebrity!

Ladies, I am having mixed feelings about this:

When I found out on Saturday Google wanted to feature me as part of their case studies in online work I was excited. Very excited. When the video came out it was fab and I loved it. However, a day later things changed somewhat.

Open the video in YouTube. Do you see that description there?

Originally from South Waziristan, Maria runs the Women’s digital league; an online freelancing company that provides digital services to clients from around the world. Maria and her team of female employees work from their homes and conduct research, database management, event management etc.

Umm … this is the second instance in a short period of time where I’ve been invited to be a part of some big shot event and then introduced as being from SW. Now that would have been fine with me except that none of the other’s profiles read, “XYZ, originally from Tando Ala Yaar” or “Native of Lahore” or whatever. Why does this have to be a prefix for me? Is my only achievement the fact that I belong to FATA? Why does that overshadow the fact that I’ve a Master’s Degree in English Lit? Or that I am a woman in a male dominated industry? Or that I’ve worked extremely hard the past few years? I just don’t get it. Maybe I am reading too much into it and getting all sensitive for nothing but nevertheless … I don’t like it. I don’t understand why it has to be there.

Another reason why I am disturbed is because overnight I am being swamped with CVs. Look at my Facebook page stats:

Virtual Assistant
Do you see the MAD graph? I don’t have any work, ladies. Not at the moment. I am not hiring. I am merely working on building the portal and reaching out to people trying to convince them to give us work when the portal is online and ready to go.

I am not a successful businessperson. Actually, I am quite a failure. Yeah, let’s say it out loud. I never meant to enter business. All I wanted was to get a an O-A Levels teaching job and earn Rs. 30k a month. That was the most I aspired for. WDL was started by accident. I had discovered online work – was making decent money – working flexible hours – no workplace politics. It was great. Other woman just had to know about it but no one would take me seriously. So I had the bright idea of making it into a business because flaunting titles, though empty ones, gives you more credibility than if you work out of pure good faith. I just meant to encourage other women to work online.

No regrets. I have enjoyed the journey. I am still loving it. It’s what gives me the strength to get up in the morning and actually puts a smile on my face. Working on WDL makes me happy. There! But, I don’t want anyone to think I am a fraud. There are just so many of those out there flaunting “social enterprises” – you’d be surprised. Am working very hard. trying to make this happen. But for now, I am just a simple woman with a dream and lots of hope and tremendous support and help from some amazing people. Just a disclaimer here. Some people have asked if I am supported by the government or if it has helped me in any way. fair question considering the video is being shown from the PITB platform. But to clarify – I’ve been working on my own with no financial help from any organization.

OK I have vented enough. Have had a fever for last 3 days so forgive me if I am not making much sense.

Thank you … *bow

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Pipelines and Funnels – Dammit!

Someone I revere asked me recently; “Do you honestly believe WDL can work?” Without batting an eyelid I said, “Yes!”

Ask me what my business pipeline is and I will give you a goofy grin and say, “I don’t know”. Ask me what my sale funnel is and I’ll giggle nervously and tell you I ain’t got a clue. But there is no doubt in my mind that WDL is meant to be.

Many a days I am tempted to get myself a job. Am offered good ones. Great salaries. Here is the problem. I know if I take up any of those offers I’ll make a bunch of money but I’ll never ever be happy. Now, I am no fool. Being as stubborn as I am has been a great asset in running WDL. Despite the mockery and the cruel jokes I’ve been slowly moving along. However, I am not a fool. I promised myself I would give 5 years to WDL and try make it work. I have absolutely no doubt that it is a very practical idea that can actually change the lives of many in Pakistan. But at the same time I also know sometimes you are meant to be the architect and not the mason. If I am unable to scale it up, I’ll just get it out of my system knowing I tried REALLY hard. There will be no nagging guilt telling me I quit and chickened out.

Its not easy being a woman in a very male dominated industry. Making it on your own without any connections or biz background is hard. Putting up with jeering comments about trying to be “saintly” is horrid. Being asked what you have been doing for last 3 years is hard. You can’t go to everyone and say, “Hey, I know I am where most women in the industry start from. But its’ taken me an incredible amount of sacrifice and resilience to be here where I am now and I am proud of it.” Maybe someone, some day will come and take it to the next level. I am happy I’ve got the ball rolling. Am happy I have a “case study” at least in WDL for others.

I have absolutely no clue how to run a business, I have admitted time and time again. Yes, I know crazy stuff like the infographic below:

 

But when it comes to serious stuff, I am just a literature student who somehow finds herself doing tech. All I know is this is what I am meant to do. Dunno where it will lead. Just know the journey is completely worth it.

And no, we don’t know where it will lead. We just know there’s something much bigger than any of us here. ~ Steve Jobs