But I Want More

Man, from running a Google-check on my name and finding ZILCH to now when all this really cool stuff pops up, I AM LIVING MORE THAN MY DREAM. But I want more! Some would call this selfish. Others would tell me I was ungrateful. I say wanting more is what keeps us going.

So the latest idea is to start an IDEA Center. You know – a kind of, sort of, community center but more. Or maybe less. People can just walk in and know that everyone present is v open to hearing them out. Discussing things. No matter how quirky, crazy it may sound. Add to it a co-working space. You can just walk in and grab a bean bag (or just sit on the floor) and do whatever you need to do. Heck, spend the whole day if you want. No money required. But in return you have to give back in some way. I dunno – maybe listen out someone’s idea. Give a 2 hour workshop over the weekend. Offer to give pick and drop to the people. Bring food. Or tea. ANYTHING you can offer.

Invite people visiting town to spare some time and come meet our people. Slowly add a library. A tiny cafe where tea costs Rs 20 ($2) and a plate of samosa with chutney is Rs 30 ($30). Cheap and fun and useful place for people of all ages to just hang out. If we feel the place is getting crowded, we have a HOUSEFULL sign displayed.

Please, let’s do this. It would be so much fun. And it’s not even that expensive. All I need is 3 months of uninterrupted time to work on this. HAHAHA – that made me laugh – not happening any time soon. But hey, if you are up for it and SERIOUSLY up for some hard as s*** work that pays you ZERO in monetary terms in the short run, COME OVER.

Eeeeeeeeeeeee

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Advertisements

The Promise is Fulfilled

So all of you now don’t go and die (Translated from “Ab saray maro mat”). I promised you photographs and photographs though shalt get.

 

 

 

 

Right to Life with Dignity

Wrote this few years back for The News blog. Thought I would share it here. Right to Life with Dignity.

Human rights rest on human dignity. The dignity of man is an ideal worth fighting for and worth dying for. – Robert Maynard

 

My first reaction on reading above quote: *HeadScratch*. All my life I have been told I had the right to life, to healthcare, education, practicing my religion and beliefs. Therefore imagine my surprise when I find out one fine day that the first right in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the right to life with dignity. What does that even mean? Dear old Google came to my help and I realized ‘Dignity’ is what everything else stems from. Dignity means knowing your worth and valuing yourself because only when we start valuing ourselves do we start asking for more and understanding our rights. Being an entrepreneur myself, the following video by Acumen Fund really struck a chord:

 

Dignity (<= is a link to the YouTube video)

 

People seek dignity, not dependence. Choice, not charity.

 

This has been a bone of contention between me and the foreign donor agencies I meet. They ask why Pakistanis hate them so much despite the aid they are sending. I say, ‘Maybe because you are throwing your aid at them from the back of trucks and enjoying seeing them make a  spectacle of themselves fighting over bags of flour and rice? It would help if you setup a proper system of distributing these goods that wouldn’t compromise their dignity.’

 

When you rip people of their self-respect you take away their most basic and vital human right. This in turn makes them hate themselves for their weakness and others for exploiting it.

 

The truth is that without dignity there can be no equality. And it begins at home. If I don’t love myself enough because of my weaknesses or failures and hence lack self-respect, I give others the power to usurp my rights. Looking down upon one’s self leads to low self-esteem which makes us doubt what we deserve allowing society or certain segments of it to take over our rights.

 

The easiest example that comes to my mind is a question that plagues the life of most women right from childhood to old age, “Am I pretty?” Think about it, look around you. You will hear mothers telling their daughters how pretty they are. Not how good, intelligent or sweet they are but how pretty they are. And when the same little girl grows up and realizes her teeth stick out, or her nose is crooked, or her chest is flat and she doesn’t come up to Hollywood’s interpretation of ‘pretty’ how does that make her feel? Crestfallen! Since the day she was born she has lived thinking being pretty was the best thing she could be and here she is all imperfect. In the process, self-esteem is what she loses. Generations of women come one after the other judging themselves on a yardstick of beauty and then cursing men for objectifying them and not looking beyond their gender or their looks. Just a word of advice for all my gender-mates – listen to this woman and follow her example:

 

This, this is about my own some-day daughter. When you approach me, already stung-stayed with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty? Will I be pretty?” I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer, “No! The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained in five letters.

“You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing. But you, will never be merely ‘pretty’.”

 

The day we realize double standard of asking for right to practice our religion anywhere in the world when we look down upon minorities in our own country with loathing we will have a better case. The day women are well represented and at the same time do not expect quotas or ‘seats ‘ in educational institutions as a form of entitlement we know we will be making progress.

Finally the day people realize they cannot ask for a right to clean roads and public toilets while at the same time throwing garbage in front of other people’s homes instead of taking it to the dumpster they will sound more convincing. In short, we have to earn the right to ask for our rights by giving others theirs.

 

The right to life alone is not enough. Its life with dignity that we should strive and struggle for because every other right arises from awareness of our worth and respect for ourselves. I leave you with this thought:

 

Equality lies only in human moral dignity. … Let there be brothers first, then there will be brotherhood, and only then will there be a fair sharing of goods among brothers. – Fyodor Dostoevsky

 

Long Overdue

For those confused about how to contribute to my b school campaign, here is link to my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/MariaGoesToSchool THANKS!

 

Dubai was awesome.

No, let me rephrase that.

ASHOKA was AWESOME.

Gosh … who would have thought I would make it to Ashoka! For those of you who don’t understand what the big deal is it’s the OSCARS of social entrepreneurs. That’s what I told my sister since my family still don’t understand what I do but in retrospect it was very apt. The ladies were ah-mazing.

Ashoka Everyone                                             Ashoka award

 

You will need YouTube to view this video. Or if you are in a country blocking the service you can use a proxy. I use 12345proxy.com *evilgrin*

Have been invited by a v prestigious b school to apply for their leadership course. You have no idea how big of a thrill it is. Just having your application considered by them is a huge deal never mind getting an actual invitation from them. Now if only I had the money. Do you think if I start a Crowdfunding campaign you’d all pitch in? Tuition fee alone is like 12,000 euros but got good chances of getting a sponsor. Travel is the actual problem. Need about $10,000. That’s like 10,000 people contributing a dollar each. Or 5000 people pitching in $2 each. or 2500 people giving $4/ea. Or 1250 people giving me $8/ea. That should be doable, no? I am serious guys. if you want to help, pledge $8 below and send me an email at maria@womensdigitalleague.com. Let’s see if I can get 1250 people to give me $8/ea. 😀

Had to send my college/university degree to my business partner cum mentor. Since I didn’t have the degree on me I ended up sending the DMC (Detailed Marks Certificate). And GAWD it was so embarrassing. 😀 😀 I was a topper in my own college but those marks are anything but topper material. 😀

Few months back met this American guy who has been living in Pakistan for last 10 years or more. Runs a disaster relief organization by the name of Comprehensive Disaster Response Service (CDRS). Goes around the world helping people during times of … you guessed it … disaster. Has a strong passion for rock music. Is usually spotted wearing one of his many Pink Floyd shirts.

Todd Shea in Pink Floyd

Imagine an American walking around Swat or Buner or Bannu. Yes, guys. BANNU. The dude is absolutely crazy. At the mo, he is in Bannu at ground zero with the IDPs from North Waziristan. CRAZY!

Todd Shea - Crazy Americano in Bannu

Reason why I am sharing all this is because my peeps, things are really bad for these IDPs. He is collecting funds especially for the local hospital. Am sharing a photograph he put on FB along with an appeal for donations. If you click on the image it will take you to his post where you can connect with him to learn more and donate. Honestly, if this doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will. Please contribute what you can?

Todd Shea - Hospital - postnatal care - bannu

 

OK my lovelies, me outta here. But here is a recap of all of above:

  1. I am an Ashoka Changemaker which means I am cool and you are not. Deal with it.
  2. Scratch last bit of above. You are all awesome. Please give me $8 and spread word (I am serious about this) so I can attend the b school.
  3. People are dying. Please donate what you can.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

On Turning 35 and more

Uhhhhh ….

Ummmm ….

Errrr ….

*Minion-ese*

I am brand ambassador for #NestleNesvitaWomenOfStrength campaign. Khirad *sharam* (Don’t worry if you don’t understand this – it’s from a superhit Pakistani TV drama).

Am waiting for the video they made. Or maybe I am not. I tried following a script to answer their Qs. But they wouldn’t have it. And we all know when I speak from the heart I get into trouble. *biting nails*.

Here is an example:

For those of you who understand urdu … I made a Pathan joke. Ugh. Those who don’t, I MADE A PATHAN JOKE. *facepalm. Being a blueblooded pushtun is perhaps the reason I don’t have people calling me racist.

Alauddin - Nestle Nesvita Women of Strength Campaign 1

A photo from the campaign.

Anyway, I am glad the video (yet to go live) was shot at Alauddin. It’s my second fav place now … almost as magical as Hunza. Did I tell you I was going to Hunza for a whole month in July In sha Allah? Yes, Sir, I am. Woo hoo.

Was invited to a seminar arranged by British Council Pakistan. The US Embassy will always be my first love (think Artemis) but it was nice to hear a different English. *grin. As skeptical as I was the experience really was quite wonderful. Best part was meeting Dr Quratulain Bakhteari. The lady has a PhD in pit toilets. I meet people like these … who just quietly go through life touching people, working for them, and I somehow want to just cry. So easy to make people’s lives better. All it takes is a little bit of our time and yet we don’t do it. Why? Emo much? Oh well.

British Council Seminar

One epic moment at the seminar. I have been trying to avoid this anecdote but I can’t help it. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. So, during a panel discussion on how we can use technology to engage civil society, moderator asked us how we can capitalize on a hyper connected youth. This person representing the IT Ministry gave the BEST answer. Remember, I said IT Ministry. He said the best way to engage this tech-savvy, socially connected youth was to build playgrounds and get them involved in sports!!! OMG. OMG. ROFL. *splutter gasp* #facepalm. Sigh.

What else? Ummm …. nothing much really. Oohhh yeah. I turned 35. Wow. I always used to think 35 was old. But I don’t feel old. Is that normal? Pretty much feel the same as I did at 15. Except I have some grey hair now. And I weigh a ton. Or two tons. But I feel just as stupid as I did before. Somehow the same stupid thoughts make people think I am clever now. Find me inspiring. Strange how perspectives can change. However, not sure how I feel about it. As long as I wasn’t relatively famous I knew who were my friends most of the time. Now, I am not. I mean I think I do but then I find out the hard way they are just people who are intrigued. They have an idea of who I am and then they are disappointed when they find out I am not who they thought I was. That I really meant what I told them about me and I wasn’t just being self-deprecating. And it’s like they are taken aback and shocked that I can be human. But oh well. I am not competing with anyone on being nice.

The only person you should try be better than is the person you were yesterday.

Ok byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

 

Asking Life for More

Some days I am an atheist. For some moments. The madness surrounding my country leaves me gasping for breath. Every day the news of someone getting killed in a senseless war waged by a faceless enemy surrounded by countless controversies for reasons that are … well … just not reason enough. Fear that comes with the realization this may be just the catharsis. Preparation for something more personal, more closer to home. This shaking, terrified person I have met today that I never thought I was just because of a name that sounded familiar and that may be no more may stay here and become me. And every time the feeling lasts for a few seconds. Because I need to have Faith. Believe there is a Heaven … a better place where everything is fair. Where the good are rewarded .. and the bad .. the bad are chastised. If I didn’t, I won’t be able to “be”. Not physically, not in spirit. I’d snatch out my soul and tear it into pieces so I just wouldn’t be. So I need Faith. I need God. So I know that in the end everything’s going to be OK. 

So on to better things! 

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. People have their own ways of celebrating it. Some make morning show appearances and laugh at lame jokes, dance to silly songs. Some will hold glitzy events at fancy hotels. Yet others will go for bicycle rides!!! Dunno what any of that achieves but more power to everyone. Me? I will be at Ala-ud-din Academy with the women no one will prolly ever know. The unsung heroes who go about their daily routines. Women who work; support themselves and families; go home and take on the roles of mothers, daughters, wives; who face every day challenges without demanding any recognition for any of it. Yet who have true grit and determination to do more … achieve more … ask for more from life. They make me feel small and unaccomplished. But at the same time happier for having known them just a wee bit. 

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

DDSS – Different Day, Same SUPER-AWESOMENESS

I hate how Facebook keeps tempting me to say something. That little white bar pretends to be interested in what I am thinking, who I am with, what I am eating. Like an annoying 12 year old who wants to shadow everything you do.

Wow! I am random, ain’t I?

My mind is cluttered with a lot of rubbish these days. On top is WDL, as usual. Not that WDL is rubbish. NOT AT ALL. I mean I have questions and people who will gladly answer the questions but am just not sure I am ready to hear them … just yet. Going in a slightly new direction with it. Have included capacity building to the things we do. Have always been slightly averse to the term. Have you noticed how many people throw that at you … “capacity building”, “skill development” ? It all sounds like a fraud. Maybe because it usually is. I mean what’s the point of skill building if you are not going to follow up on it and actually help people realize how that new skill they have learned from attending your workshop is useful to them? If there is no economic activity generated around it it’s pretty useless IMO.

Millions of dollars are coming into Pakistan and being used for teaching people to fish. But if they live in a desert? How good is that fishing workshop to them? Why would a person who barely gets 2 meals a day send one of his/her 10 kids to your school? What value is there is learning about plateaus and names of planets when what they really need is the 3 Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic) and special lessons in farming, fixing machinery, handicrafts, computers even to start earning even while they are in school? Do I sound bourgeois? I really hope I don’t because that’s not my intention.

Look, I am going to women who already have college degrees and am teaching them to harness the power of the Internet to become economically independent. I thought I would just show them how to use Elance and oDesk and then let them see what a wonderland it all is. But I very quickly realized not every one is cut out for data entry or SEO. It’s CRIMINAL I believe if I know it’s not going to work for most and KNOW what will and then not help. So here I am now giving the whole package. We are doing a crash course on these different platforms like oDesk and Elance and Live Person. Then I am going to do simple basic websites with them using free WP templates and tweaking them to look and feel a certain way so that includes basic Photoshop. After that I am doing Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest with them. Having done that I will brainstorm what their special skills are. Are they good at embroidery or knitting or baking or do they give tuition etc. Having done done that am going to show them how they can then use all the skills they learned to make a business out of what they are already good at.

So suppose a group of 5 girls say they give tuition to primary grade kids. They can make a WP website, create a page for it on FB and link that to Twitter, and now promote themselves as an academy with female only teachers where the local parents would feel comfortable sending their little girls to for exam preparation etc. They can also add tuition classes through Skype as a VAS.

Similarly another group can come together and make a small catering business.

What do you think? Am I missing something here? What are the other ways you think the Internet can help them actually gain financial independence?

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee