Chicken or Not

I am speaking at a panel on Frugal Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the UN Convention Center in Bangkok. The convention is jointly organised by UNESCAP and ISOC. In some of the pre-conference workshop conversations around gender someone pointed out how some of the panels were more MANALS – had only men on them. To this the hosts had a shocking (to me at least) revelation that two women had backed out and suggested male colleagues to replace them. The conversation that ensued was on why women feel less confident speaking on serious tech topics. Me being me couldn’t help jumping in.

Ladies, if the only reason why you declined the invitation to speak – you were afraid of making a fool of yourself – do you really think men always talk sense? Dear God NO! I have attended workshops and conferences and listened to ling speeches by men where I just cringed so much I gave myself a body-sprain. They were just embarrassing. Did it stop them? No! Why should it stop women then? I mean have you heard Trump? The guy is a front contender to the US Presidency and every time he speaks I feel so embarrassed for him.

So puhleaze, don’t let it stop you. Go up there and speak your heart out. Stop worrying about not knowing everything or even a lot. You know something. You have thoughts and opinions and certain angles why you are passionate about it. Speak about that. Forget if you are sticking a 100%% to it or not.

And honestly, do you think anyone is absolutely 100% qualified to speak on behalf of the rest of humanity and formulating policies for them? Trust me no one is. So what I am going to do is talk from the heart and articulate my views and ideas and learnings as well as I can. Some will find it useful, others not. Eh. Whatever. Hate me or love me, you can’t ignore me. And that’s my darling dudettes, is what matters most.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Wish List 2015 – Let’s Start With Some LG Love

Television

My peeps, this is where I am heading. This is where all of you with any fragment of good taste and loads of money is headed. A picture so awesome the real world appears fake!

I had myself invited to the LG Launch Event at Pearl Continental Hotel, Lahore. You know I love free stuff even if it’s just a cookie and this was actually a full on Hi Tea. So there I was in all my awesomeness. Those people had really gone all out decorating the place. Red lights, vases, stage, fancy cameras … even the one that goes on a crane-like thing … the middle-class small-town person in me was secretly bedazzled. I wonder how much it all cost. I mean a fraction of it could sponsor so many WDL workshops. Sigh.

LG Launch

Thank God, I found Fatima Rizwan (TechJuice any one?) soon as I walked in. I get nervous when I don’t know anyone at a place. Got a demo of the latest energy efficient product range. Spotlight was on the LG Battery TV. Since I don’t watch much TV and dunno what all the fancy technology behind it is so I didn’t expect to get excited but I did. The thing comes with some kinda technology where you can connect your phone to it and stream videos or music or look at pictures from the phone directly on the TV. Plus, it runs for a whole 90 minutes even without electricity. Why do you think it’s called “Battery TV”? Duh. I think that’s pretty cool.

LG Battery TV

But what got my house-wifely heart beating was the refrigerator. Now you see I have been married 12 years and that’s how long my fridge has lasted me but now it needs retirement. It DESERVES retirement. For example, last month the door came off. We had to seek help from a welder. It was painful watching the surgery. But the resilient piece of historic crap actually made it through. However considering its age something or the other is gonna pop up and kill it. So I need a fridge … got the not-so-subtle hint? And this fridge was super glam. Like it had some 4 or 6 doors and there was a door within a door. Umm … hard to explain but like you know one of the doors had an outer section that only stored water and small snacks. Dunno how to explain it but was really cool and if you need proof it was even called “Ever Cool”. 😀 LG peeps, are you listening? Watch this till 1:15

Oh and their split AC has an internal mosquito killer! Yes, you heard me right. It attracts mosquitoes and traps them inside it and then ‘spits’ (for lack of a better word) them outside. Fancy, eh?

And of course, near the end I had to go meet the Asian General Manager and get my picture taken with him. Wheeeeeeee

LG GM

New Year is coming up. I know a lot of you would LOVE to buy me presents. You can start with the fancy fridge and slowly build your way up to the Tuscan holiday. Thank you.

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Up and About

Have my posts become a bit whiny and self-obsessed? First bit is bad but latter … I am worth obsessing over. *snort* Alright, I’ll give you some exciting, chirpy updates.

Last week I was interviewed by FM91. I had such a blast. When FM100 first started its services in Peshawar back when I was a teenager everyone was so psyched. That was the first time most of us ever used the radio on our boomboxes. The first few months the coolest thing anyone could do was get a call through to one of the programs. Very first week and my call got through. Still remember I asked for Take My Breath Away from Top Gun and dedicated it to my friend Tehmina Gilani who was crazy about Mr Scientology. Life really is funny. And guess who the RJ was? This girl who used to be a VJ back in the day when being a VJ was really cool and she used to come on the same channel as the Flavor-of-the-Century, Waqar Khan, the Pushtun Brit.

The Eye Candy

The Eye Candy

I would call the TV channel incessantly whenever he came online and YES I got to speak to him twice. *annoying teenager squeals*

My fav part of the interview was when the RJ asked what kept me going and I said it was my pushtun genes that make me stubborn and hence I go on. 😀 😀

with RJ Natasha of Desi Girl FMP91

with RJ Natasha of Desi Girl FMP91

Now I am Famous!

Now I am Famous!

Oohh speaking of famous, I was on CNBC!! Yeah OK so I may have tweeted that and FB-ed it a gazillion times already but don’t be haters and let me enjoy my spot in the limelight a while longer. Yeah, so the team came to Pakistan to film me. It was so cool. Loads of very fancy equipment.

I mean it took them 2 whole days to film this and it’s only like 2 and a half minutes long. RESPECT for all film-makers even those who made Creature 3D *shudder.

Also, a special shout out to all the people who helped make the video so awesome – Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) especially the DFDI department’s Saima Riaz and Asma Fakhr; Zareen Niazi, Director Ala-ud-Din Academy; Hafsa Shorish, Program Manager Plan 9; Sidra Qasim, Co-founder Markhor; and Shah Rukh, Co-founder Smartek. And of course my wonderful LCWU students whose love and respect mean the world to me. *hugs* to you all.

And of course, the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). I was invited by the Pakistan-US Alumni Network (PUAN) and the US Embassy to moderate a session on “How to become a Successful Entrepreneur”. To be honest, I didn’t know half the people on the panel. But I only need an excuse to go to Islamabad, and also I love meeting my fellow alumni, so I went. And boy was I blown over! I had 6 people on the my panel: Master Ayub, Yasmin Lari, Raza Saeed, Sean Griffith, Qurban Bibi and Rafi Imran. Of these I had only heard of Master Ayub but that’s it. I read their profiles and they all seemed very impressive. But it wasn’t till I started talking to them that I realized just how extraordinary they were. I mean there was Master Ayub who had been teaching disadvantaged kids in a street school for the last 29 years. Yasmeen Lari who has done tremendous work for the economic and social uplift of rural Sind. Raza Saeed, the guy who raised $3.5 million for his company and who spreads dollar-dust wherever he goes. Sean Griffith is a serial entrepreneur and founded Startup Cup and WeCreate. Qurban Bibi runs a training center in Chitral that she built with a micro loan. And Rafi Imran, a young student whose startup just made it into the GEW Top 50 list. MIND BLOWING! I didn’t want the session to end it was soooo fascinating.

Later, the kids wanted to take pictures with me. It was sooo sweet. It’s so humbling when a complete stranger walks up to you and tells you she is a fan. One of them told me she taught at FAST University and gave her students my example. *awwww moment* And then the best thing happened. This woman came right up on stage with a big smile on her face. She had been giving me warm smiles the whole time I was moderating the panel. Turns out she was one of the cofounders of KADO! I read this quote somewhere that appeared cheesy at the time … something about someone hugging you some day in a way that all your broken pieces are fixed. I experienced it myself. There was a warmth and sincerity and so much love in that big huge hug she gave me that made me want to just stay there forever and forget all my worries. I am telling you I am not being emo. Honestly, it was the best thing ever.

Also, I got to meet Salma Jafri, the woman I admired from afar when I first started freelancing and now admire her from not-so-far.

Dazzling!

Dazzling!

And the fantastic panel:

GEW - Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014

In other news, I met my Hunza people! Yayyyy. It was so surreal. They were here in Lahore for some conference. I wanted to hug them all and did hug the girls. Wish they could have stayed longer.

How I love them all

How I love them all

OK are you all happy now? No? Whatever!

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Orientation on Digital Livelihood, Going Dutch, Monsoon, and other stories

LCWU DFDI OrientationHad a great orientation on Digital Livelihood at the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU). Being there makes me feel old. GOD! College for me was ages ago. Graduated in 2000. But I digress. So went and told them my story, gave them an idea about working online, an idea of why it was important for women to work. Note to self: I need to work more on it – make it tighter and more focused so I am not running around in circles. Had a healthy turnout. Let’s see how many actually register. You can see album from the orientation here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.658595287580704.1073741924.234046770035560&type=1 

 

Met with my Dutch journalist friend. She ran the story she did last time she was here. It’s in Dutch of course but she said she would share links which of course I will share with you all my lovelies. Amazing how similar people are everywhere. All these differences of religion and culture are in our heads. I mean this woman is from Netherlands. A journalist, a divorcee, with an adopted daughter. On the surface we have nothing in common. But underneath the layers of skin color and clothes and language we are so much alike. Guess when you put away prejudices and preconceived notions and give people a real chance that you see a common thread of humanity. People are born good. It’s time and experiences that turn us more one way or the other. Another note to self: Don’t judge people by who they pretend to be – give them an honest chance. 

The monsoon in Lahore has been CRAZY. Thankfully our house didn’t get flooded but all the ceilings started to leak to an extent that I was scared of turning on the lights in case there is a short circuit. Government and political parties too busy participating in the circus in Islamabad. Lahore, the city that the provincial government promised to turn into Paris, ended up becoming Venice. Case in point … 

Lahore turns into Venice

WDL is giving a scholarship to this AH-MAZING online entrepreneurship mentoring course. ‘Young Entrepreneur Mentorship’ is a 3-semester mentoring program spearheaded by Sandi Krakowski. Sandi is the President & Founder of A Real Change International, Inc. She is also one of the most sought after marketers in the world, specializing in social media, copywriting and digital media. She has homeschooled all 3 of her sons, and has personally mentored many young people who have created a 6-figure income online in under 24 months.

The scholarship is worth $497 and is open for all women between the age of 16 and 25 who are interested in starting their businesses or want to take their business to the next level. More details available at http://www.arealchange.com/blog/young-entrepreneur-mentorship-opens-week

If you or someone you know is interested and exhibits qualities like leadership, passion, perseverance and a strong will to help others then please write to query@womensdigitalleague.com with “The Young Entrepreneur Mentorship” in the subject line. 10 shortlisted women will be interviewed by moi for the spot. Selected person will have to volunteer with WDL for 3 months after the program. 

OK … that’s all folks. 

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

The Dirty ‘F’ Word for Startups and Other Things

The Send Maria To School campaign FAILED! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee (that’s me getting excited over nothing). Couldn’t find 1250 people to donate $8. *Sob. But did find many friends who rose to the challenge and donated very generously. Still a long way from my goal so decided to return the money. 100% of those who wrote back said they wanted me to keep it and use it for WDL. How awesome is that! Here is the thing. Crowdfunding is such a cool concept and it really works. But to make it successful you need to have a team of people working with you. You will need someone to run your social media campaign, do your graphics, write emails to network, send thank you emails, send updates, put up latest info on the campaign on whatever platform you are using and so on. Plus, you need to do it from a proper platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo or if most of your network is in the MENA or Pakistan you can try Zoomaal. With the other 2 platforms sometimes credit cards from these regions are not accepted. Zoomaal is based in MENA so it won’t give you any problem with your plastic. Also, of all the donations received the one that touched me the most is from Sidra Qasim. Sidra is the co-founder of an e-commerce startup called Markhor. Out of nowhere she sent me $50. Knowing how hard-pressed startups are for money this gesture really won me over. Thank you once again Sidra and Waqas. 

Recently made acquaintance of this really inspiring young man. Imran Ali Rajput is the founder of Inovadors, a startup aiming to ‘bridge the gap between education and employment’. This guy came out of nowhere and made it to the first ever week-long MITx Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. He is the only person to get selected from Pakistan. You can read more about it here. Unfortunately he couldn’t find any sponsors. I can’t tell you how frustrated that makes me with everything. We have tons of money to spend on stupid workshops that serve no purpose except to show donor agencies we are doing something. Even more is spent on startup competitions, that I completely endorse, but if startups like Inovadors are not finding sponsors for such huge opportunities then what exactly is the purpose of holding these events? Now he has been selected for the Web Summit in Dublin. I truly hope he finds someone to pay for him to attend. If you know someone who can help or you have any ideas please do share them. 

Above is just one example. The guy just happened to connect with me. I wonder how many others are missing out on huge opportunities just because they can’t find funding. 😦 

Other than that, it’s all good. Kids have started school. THANK GOD FOR THAT. They were driving me nuts expecting me to entertain them every day. I have started drinking the yuckiest possible homemade juices. An example? Cabbage, cucumber, spinach, carrot, mango, apple, plum, beet, ginger, lemon concoction. 😀 Told you it was disgusting. 

The Digital League just finished working on this really cool website for a client. Check it out here. This involved a lot of sweat and blood and I am so proud of my team. I still hope for the day when I can source out such work to WDL. Any girl-coders in Pakistan out there who can deliver such work? DO get in touch. 

Have a workshop at Lahore College for Women University starting 15th September. Looking forward to that. Involves some surprise guests. Will share more later 😉 This is strictly for students of the university. However, if you are interested in attending drop me an email at maria (at) womensdigitalleague (dot) com and I will see what I can do. 

Workshop with the British Council Active Citizen Program (ACP) participants at the LCWU.

Workshop with the British Council Active Citizen Program (ACP) participants at the LCWU.

Still waiting for the NGO registration to go through for WDL. Oh yeah … a Malaysian friend/client has got my Hunza team working on a data scraping project. We have 20 women engaged. It’s so awesome. Am really excited. There was definitely a learning curve there and we are still trying to figure out most efficient way of extracting data (we = client and us) but it’s really cool that the women are getting a first hand experience of how online work is actually possible. The procurement officer in Hunza tells me the women are having such a grand time they even come to work on weekends. 🙂 🙂 It’s my dream to have this model replicated through out Pakistan. 

OK no more to add. Take care my lovelies. Don’t let anyone get you down. Stay away from negative people. You are wonderful as you are. 

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 P.S. The ‘F’ word = FUNDING 

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. 😀

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