Either Help Me or Shut Up

I am sick and tired of people, especially young kids from KPK, asking me why I don’t work in my own province. Never mind work, why I don’t even attend any events I am invited to in Peshawar. Maybe this will help you all.

BECAUSE MY FAMILY WON’T ALLOW ME!

Did you see what happened to that teenage girl? I am not pro or anti Malala. She is a kid. And what happened to her was horrifying. But the moment she gets hit and media gets into a frenzy over it and take her to the UK all hell breaks lose. I have never read more disgusting and abusive words being spoken for a little girl whose only fault was she was trying to tell the world about the situation in Swat Valley viz-a-viz girl education. Why did that happen? ‘Coz she was a girl and it was easy to malign her. Not only pushtuns, its a national phenomenon. I went on this trade mission to the US just recently. Some FB Page posted a picture of the whole delegation. There were 3 other women besides myself. Here are some of the comments that picture received:

Capture

Yes, I am not covering any names. It’s publicly available on the FB page so why should I trouble myself. And I don’t want to translate what’s written there. All I am saying is when you have people like that who in their right mind would want to work in such a public manner? Some very brave women still do and they don’t care but they have their families supporting them or they have broken away from their families. I don’t have either and also I don’t have the courage to go ahead and work tirelessly round the clock to make things better for everyone in whatever way I can and then be publicly abused and called names. And even if I had my family’s support I still wouldn’t do it.

This doesn’t mean I don’t want to work in KPK. I am going to but as Mufasa said in Lion King, “Being brave does not mean you go looking for trouble”. I am gonna do what I need to do and find a way where people won’t be able to point fingers. I already am. But doesn’t mean I am very public with it. I started a small company called The Digital League about a year ago. It has its office in Basecamp Peshawar. It employs a few local boys and also supports the co-working space. I am always open for mentoring and advise to anyone anywhere. Also, with respect to speaking engagements, if a university or college invites me for a session I will be more than happy to attend. I am doing what I can to bring WDL to KPK but it doesn’t mean I have to be the face of it – I have other plans.

If you ask me what is more important to me riches and success or honor … I will always go with honor. Call me old school, coward, hypocrite … but that’s how it is. And to those in KPK and from KPK raising fingers, please do tell how many of you have wives, sisters, daughters working in the development sector leading public lives and interacting with 100s of men on a daily basis in KP? You understand our culture better but you still point fingers – please do come up with some examples now.

YES I AM ANNOYED AND ANGRY AND FRUSTRATED SO EITHER COME FORWARD AND HELP ME OR JUST STOP BEING SO JUDGMENTAL. Or I will huff and puff and blow your house down.

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Harsh Reality

Just received this message on Facebook and I feel it merits a blog post.

Judgmental much 1

Judgmental much

First line of second image roughly translates into, “It’s people like you who can’t handle the honor Allah bestows on them.

I am not sure what to think of it. Don’t know this guy at all. He added me on FB and I accepted the friend request. As I have done with countless others. That’s all. Also, I don’t know the guy he asked me to reach recommend him to. He also just happens to be on my FB. Are people really naive enough to think that just because someone is a part of your social media network you are actually buddies? And then he goes on to insult me saying there is something wrong with my family background and I am putting obstacles in other people’s way to success!!!!

Sighhhh … this is JUST ONE of such examples. And I am choosing to talk about it because I need my FB/Twitter/LI/Pinterest/SoundCloud ‘friends’ to understand unless we talk on quite a regular basis and know each other professionally I am sorry but I can’t recommend you for a job. Can’t walk up to a friend and say “Hey, this stranger approached me and he wants a job. Give it to him.”

Also, my Gmail and FB ‘Other’ folder is chock full. I try respond to as many people as I can if their message merits a reply but if I don’t see your email and I don’t respond, it’s nothing personal. I am a wife, a mother, a businesswoman and a very faulty human being – some times I just don’t have the time or energy.

On another note, I am very open on social media. I talk about fun, mundane every day stuff instead of posts about how wonderful I am and how busy I am with my work. It helps me relax and keeps me grounded. But at the same time if you are going to come up with negative comments like, “Oh, you should clearly mention a job that’s advertised by WDL is for women only”, and start a solo thread of comments don’t expect me to be good-natured about it. It’s WOMEN’S Digital League – how much more clarity do you need?

And YES I AM ANNOYED. I AM TIRED AND I AM STRESSED AND I CAN’T SLEEP AND I GOT A THOUSAND AND ONE THINGS TO DO WHICH I HAVE NO CLUE HOW I AM GOING TO MANAGE AND I WORRY ABOUT MY PARENTS WHO ARE FAR AND ARE NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER AND I HAVE FRIENDS GOING THROUGH SOME VERY TROUBLED TIMES. So I am sorry if my being human is such an inconvenience to people but that’s who I am and that’s never going to change. THANK YOU!

Bye

Challenges

Short and sweet. 

Took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Totally nailed it. Would post the video here but I haven’t completely lots it YET so I won’t. 

Was also asked to name my 10 fav books. This I can certainly share. And NO, it does not feature anything by Steve Jobs or Malcolm Gladwell or Napoleon Hill. 

1. All of Enid Blyton. Specially partial to ‘Naughtiest Girl in School’ and ‘Magic Faraway Tree’ series. Famous Five and the Seven Find-Outers are a very close second. Envied Fatty for having his own shed and all those cool disguises.
2. Harry Potter series. Had the privilege of reading the first print and also at a time when it wasn’t the craze it became later. No shame in admitting I was in college at the time and the Prisoner of Azkaban scared the hell out of me.
3. Gone with the Wind. Read the book some gazillion times and can read it another gazillion times. Totally in love with Rhett and more so with the feisty Scarlett O’Hara. Can relate to the pre-Civil War American society’s treatment of women. The sequel ‘Scarlett’ saved me from committing suicide over Rhett’s abandonment of Scarlett.
4. The Anne of Green Gables Series. The first 3 books are my fav. Still lack the courage to read beyond Anne’s House of Dreams.
5. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Fin.
6. Tess of the D’Urbevilles. Although if you ask me for details I may not know them. But this was when I really understood why Hardy is such a celebrated writer.
7. The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne This hit a chord. One of the most touching, heart-rending books ever written.
8. The Book Thief. A book I read recently. It made me LOL and cry bitter tears too. I know if my grandkids take literature in college they will have this on their course.
9. A Thousand Splendid Suns. Even though Kite Runner is the more famous book, I like this much better.
10. Samarkand. Amin Maalouf is a genius.

Leaving you with some poetry by Omar Khayyam: 

Those whom we meet in churches, divinity colleges or temples
Desire heaven and fear hell;
But he who has read the secrets of the Divine,
Does not give a moment’s thought to such matters. 

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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