I am helping to manage an IT Center in Karimabad, Hunza. It’s a part of my efforts for female emancipation through digital
work. Back in 2008 when I first started working online I had no idea this is where it would lead me. My only priority then was staying sane and earning a pocket-money. As the power of virtual work unfolded before me and my life turned around for the better, I realized the impact it could have on our economy, our lives, our society. And thus Women’s Digital League was born. I founded this ‘virtual firm providing digital services to client, owned and powered by Pakistani women working from home’. For 3 years I lived, breathed, slept WDL. There were moments of extreme adrenaline rush that lasted for months, and then horrible lows when I thought I was demented for thinking this could work. However, being the stubborn dreamer that I am, I stuck to it, met incredible people, had horrid experiences, held success and happiness in my hands, found a voice and a purpose …
I made money … a lot of it – did fun stuff, bought expensive clothes but it only lasted for a short time. I wanted more. Personal gratification … that’s what was lacking … what I wanted more than anything else. I got my chance! I was connected by a client with an NGO working in Karimabad, Hunza that owned an IT Center. A-ha!
Hunza has a 90% literacy rate with many youngsters going to the urban areas for higher education. What’s refreshing is that almost always these young students decide to go back to Hunza, especially the women … so I had no problem finding the right workforce. To make things better, TimeSvr joined hands with WDL and we decided to work together on our mission to reach remote areas of Pakistan that had a good literacy rate and where there was sufficient interest on part of local organizations to help us run digital work centers in beta. It gives me such a thrill saying this … Ladies, the experiment has been successful!
We started with Amazon MTurk and CrowdFlower, and now we are doing similar work with individual clients for a lot more than what the former two offered. Not only that, we are sending them more advance tasks like converting PDF files to Word, cleaning up Excel sheets, and so on. A typical school or college teacher in the valley earn up to Rs. 4000 ($45-50) per month working fulltime 6 days a week. In 1997 the population of Karimabad was said to be 5000 people. Even if it’s doubled since then, you can imagine just how many schools/colleges exist in the area. At the IT Center the women work for about $150 a month. The place has substantial room for growth and even profit if it can be sustained via regular work, solar panels to help with the power situation and a reliable Internet connection.
Now WDL is merged with TimeSvr. In fact, there is no WDL. I only work for the IT Center and hope there will be many more like it along the Karakoram Highway which is a part of the ancient Silk Road. I always have trouble winding up a post but I guess all I want to say is that is working on this project gives a meaning to my life and a direction … what the more dramatic would call a ‘calling’. And I am loving every moment of it.