Empowerment!

At the Asia Pacific Region Internet Development Dialogue (APRIDD) I attended last week one issue kept coming up – that of access. Some argued that should everyone have access because we say it would bring economic empowerment but what we see is that people just flock onto social sites. So maybe access shouldn’t be for everyone.

Tell me something! Does everyone who go to med school end up becoming a doctor? Does everyone who go to a book store buy books on how to put together a rocket? So just because someone is going to become a housewife after going to college or is going to pick up 50 Shades of Grey that means we should prevent their access to education and bookshops?

Internet Access is a human right now. Once I have access what I do with it is my choice. Same as the right to life is my right and what I do with that life is my choice. But let me make something even clearer. Economic activity is generated when you have social networks. Who do you sell to? How do you even know if something you have is needed by someone to the point you can make money off it? To do that you must be socially connected.

When I started using the Internet it was just for chatting with people (mIRC and AOL) or to send and receive emails. Then a time came when I was using it to help with homework. Then came videos and blogging. But I realized the things I had to say and the way I said them were appreciated. That I actually knew stuff. And when I was fired from my teaching job I turned to the Internet and started selling articles and blogposts and even some data entry stuff. All this led to Women’s Digital League, and here I am.

Did I start off thinking I was going to run a business? No! But was that option available to me when I needed it? Yes! But to get to this point I had to go through the whole process of learning to use the Internet and building social networks and understanding to some extent the options I had available to me.

But even if I never did any of the work I did using the Internet and I just sat home and watched funny cat videos or read latest Hollywood gossip that’s my choice.

And here is a local newspaper featuring me (without my consent or knowledge, though I am not complaining … yet) 😀

express-tribune-self-sufficiency

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeee

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And then everyone WINS!

Almost SEVEN years! Time does fly – takes several breaks to crap on you – but it flies. Women’s Digital League started as FIRST and ONLY social enterprise of its’ kind promoting and providing online computer-based work to Pakistani service providers. Of course, we were gender-biased and still are. But regardless of that, we were the pioneers. At a time when people scoffed at the idea, closed doors in my face, mocked me, gave friendly advises on NOT continuing with it and continuing with my teaching career WDL kept plodding away. SLOW AND STEADY never made sense to me until WDL.

Today, WDL has several franchising offers, a World Bank grant under its belt, recognition on several platforms including FORBES and ASHOKA *insert crazy blood-curdling excited screams*. WE WERE EVEN ON MASHABLE before Mashable decided to post articles on male health (ahem) and 9 year olds getting all excited about meeting Trump.

UN, WB, USAID, investors and VCs are pouring in Alahmdulillah (easy – I am not detonating anything – merely praising God for everything! Gosh, peeps! *eyeroll). I have offers from people in other countries to expand there. It’s just crazy.

But what makes me really happy is that FINALLY this crazy idea is being taken up by others who are MAD and implemented. My mission was always to have people believe and come into the field. It was lonely being the only one. I am so excited to see new faces doing incredible work creating digital livelihoods. Hundreds and thousands of people trained throughout the country in working online doing graphics, WordPress, social media, article writing, data entry … the awesome interactions taking place, the stories coming up … it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Currently, the grant we received from WB back in April 2015 for just one training has been extended and we are now conducting 10 trainings over a period of 12 months. Who would have thought! World Bank hiring me as a consultant to run a digital livelihood program! RIDICULOUS!

There is this quote by Gandhi I found a while ago and have been in love since finding out;

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Giving up is never an option. Perseverance always pays off and that’s the quality of an entrepreneur. Tell you the truth, just last week I broke down while on my way to a meeting. When I say broke down I mean I actually sobbed in the backseat of a rental with a driver who was a complete stranger. Decided I didn’t want to attend the meeting, didn’t want to have anything to do with WDL and that I just couldn’t handle it any more. Some would argue I shouldn’t be making this pubic because it would make people hesitant in investing in WDL or me but WHAT THE HELL. Since when have I ever played it by the rules.

Anyhoo what I was trying to say is that Gandhi forgot one thing. He forgot to mention … “And in the end everyone wins” because when you are doing good in whatever way you are actually multiplying the effect.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeee