Posts tagged ‘Islamabad’

Hey world meet a true-blue Pakistani!

More often than not we tend to forget that the world is full of all kinds of people – some good, some bad, some honest, some dishonest, some loving and compassionate, some harsh and cruel. And they live in different counties across the globe.

Pakistan is no exception – of the 180 million people in this country, the majority are hardworking, dedicated and compassionate human beings who are trying to make an honest buck and live a decent and happy existence. In the dismal conditions that have prevailed this past week, thankfully today I was once again reminded that I live amongst some really amazing people.

I arrived in Islamabad this morning at 9 and after checking into the Guest House, I decided that instead of renting a car for the day (unnecessarily wasting company funds), I would hail a yellow cab and make my way to the Evacuee Trust Complex where several meetings were being  held back-to-back. It was only when i was in distant sight of the Marriott Hotel that I was told by the security guys there that yellow cabs were not allowed beyond that point. I had no option but to get my laptop, iPad and other paraphernalia and walk the remainder of the way. The sun was scorching hot but I braved it and had almost reached the Software Technology Park (which is next to the Marriott) when I realized that I didn’t have my wallet in my pocket.

I backtracked and frantically looked for the yellow cab – saw many of them but not my chappie. Dejected I gave up and headed back for the Tech Park, phoning my office on the way and asking Mustafa to call the Guest House to find out if they had noted down the license plate number of the yellow cab when I left there earlier that morning.  I knew I had little hope of getting the wallet back but kept whispering a small prayer hoping that God would hear me.

I had Rs. 28,000 in the wallet (had to pay someone here), two credit cards (VISA and AMEX), my NIC Card, my Health Card, my Frequent Flyer Mile cards and heaven knows what else. My life was going to be hell trying to replace some of the cards. Sigh!

As I was drowning my sorrow in a glass of ice cold water, the lady from the Guest House called and told me that the cabbie had gone back to the Guest House and turned in my wallet at the reception desk. He had first gone back to where he had dropped me but by then i had given up and left and he did not know which office I was going to in the Technology Park. However, he did know where I was  staying. For me Rs. 28,000 is a lot of money; for a struggling cab driver it is a whole lot more. And yet he went out of this way to drive back to the guest house and return what didn’t rightfully belong to him. There is hope for us yet. :-) I hope one day I will run into the cab driver again if only to thank him for renewing my faith in the goodness of people and the integrity that is in-built in many of us.

Disclaimer: this is not a picture of “my cabbie” – just a placeholder until i find the real McCoy.

May 10, 2011 at 12:08 am 24 comments

Meet Sohail Abid – a freelancer who is a real trailblazer!

Pakistani freelancers have made quite a mark on sites like Rent-a-Coder, oDesk and Elance. They have shown that despite the challenges that they face in terms of power outages and connectivity issues, they have been able to meet customer deadlines and more than live up to the expectations of customers from across the globe. Some estimate that the freelance business via these sites may be as high as US$40 – 80 million which is truly amazing. We are going to try and find a way to substantiate this figure by conducting some specific research this year.

In the meantime, it is still a wonderful day when you come across someone like Sohail Abid who shows you that freelancers are going beyond just delivering outsourced work.

Sohail is a cultural analyst who also happens to be a software engineer by some weird act of God. He had quite a good career in the Pakistani software industry but says he quit after 3 years when during an interview for a new position, he asked for better salary than they were offering, and the potential employer said to him “If you are that good, why don’t you work for yourself?” So he did just that. He refused their offer, and started working on his own. He had been working as the team lead/project manager at that time. “And I have never looked back.” says Sohail. “9-5 is a big no-no for me now.”

So what has Sohail done that has prompted this post? Well, he has done many things (he wanted to be a physicist, studied software engineering, wrote an existentialist novel, and ended up in cultural research. About 9 months ago he also embarked on a Motorcycle tour of Pakistan). I may write about all that in detail some time but, at this moment, the Breaking News is that he has developed a WordPress plugin that gives users something Facebook isn’t offering: the ability to embed their public material on their blogs. It is called “Embed Facebook” and lets one embed various Facebook objects (albums, single photo, page, event, video, group, or note) in a blog post by simply pasting the URL.

Here’s a demo of the plugin: http://wp.sohailabid.com/

This plugin is available from the official WordPress plugins repository: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/embed-facebook/ (and has been downloaded 7000+ times in less than two months, which is a success from a wordpress plugin perspective as they are only used by website owners, not end users like iPhone apps :).

So when we assessing the talent that exists in Pakistan, let’s not forget that other than the companies, there are many freelancers who are marching to their own tune and doing their own thing – all below the radar. Well done Sohail. We are proud to know you. Keep doing whatever your heart tells you to because it is your passion (in addition to your hard work and talent) that has resulted in some of the wonderful work you have been able to do thus far.

January 15, 2011 at 12:17 am 17 comments

Happy 20th birthday APC from all of us in Pakistan

1990 – 2010 the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is 20 years old.

APC, the world’s longest-running network, celebrates their 20th anniversary in May 2010. Twenty years networking online for social justice and sustainable development.

Since so many APC women were in Islamabad for the FTX, we decided to celebrate the birthday at Saidpur Village over dinner by cutting two cakes (each depicting one decade of APC). Happy birthday to a dynamic association that has become a network that many of us have come to depend on.

Shahzad joining the APC women in cutting the two cakes.

Here I am presenting a Sindhi Ajrak to Jan as part of the celebrations.

A warm hug from Jenny as she receives her Ajrak.

Afia explains the history of the Ajrak as all the visitors oooh and aaah over their newly acquired pieces. :)

June 13, 2010 at 9:11 am 3 comments

The slogan: “We work hard but we party hard too!”

June 13, 2010 at 8:43 am 2 comments

What are your views about the FTX Sana?

Sana Saleem, activist, writer, medical student and blogger has now decided to be Director, Producer, Star, Script Writer and Distributor all-in-one. Here she shares very briefly her experience of attending the first Feminist Tech Exchange in Islamabad.

June 13, 2010 at 12:13 am 1 comment

Jan talks about the Digital Story Telling workshops

Jan Moolman, one of the facilitators of the Feminist Tech Exchange, and a key member of the APC Women’s Program, talks about the Digital Story Telling workshops and what they entail.

June 13, 2010 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

So Jenny tell us about the APC Women’s Program

Jennifer Radloff, who is a part of the Association of Progressive Communications (APC) Women’s Program, talks about the APC Women’s Program and the capacity building work that she and others at APC are a part of.

June 12, 2010 at 11:56 pm 2 comments

Valentina tells us about the Story Circles

Valentina Pellizzer talks about the story circles and about the colours of Pakistan that she found so amazing.

June 12, 2010 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

What are the Feminist Practices of Technology Cheekay?

Cheekay Cinco from the Association of Progressive Communications Women’s Programme talks about the Feminist Practices of Technology and her experience in facilitating the Feminist Tech Exclange in Islamabad.

June 12, 2010 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment

Creating our first Digital Stories as part of the FTX

I know it is not a very difficult task to create a digital story (especially with the kind of easy-to-use software that is available today) but the process of creating a story that is personal to you can be extremely stressful and can take a lot out of you. Remember also that for many of the women who took part in the FTX, this was a first.

Here is what the process involved:

The story circle took the most out of the majority of the participants as they reached into the deepest recesses of their soul to pull out a personal story. This element of the workshop took the longest time as well.

Once the stories poured out, full of emotion and accompanied often by tears and heartbreak, the facilitators broke them into parts so that they could help us all to put a story idea together with some clarity and focus. Once this was done we had to write our scripts. It is one thing to break down and ramble on about something that hurts you to the core. It is another to take a step back, look at what happened and clearly put the words down so that it can be developed into something you can share with others.

As the ladies (and our one male feminist) tried to put words down on screen, we realized that as we worked, what we were actually doing was starting the healing process.

The next step was to record the narration once Jan or Jenny or Val had looked at the scripts and told us if there were any amendments that were needed. We had been taught Audacity by Cheekay so we knew how to record, remove noise, increase the volume and edit the narration if necessary.

With the narration completed, it was time to visualize the story. This was tougher than one had imagined. Whether it was one’s own story or a story about someone else in which one was present. you had to be careful about who you depicted, whether to use visuals but annonymize them, whether to use sketches instead or to find abstract photos that would serve the purpose.

Once the visuals were found and worked on using open source manipulation software, it was time to merge the narration, the visuals and add the music and the transitions so that it became a story. We had been given a tutorial in both MovieMaker (for Windows) and iMovie (for Mac) so that we could put our digital stories together. Easier said than done of course. Some of us found we had too many visuals, others found there weren’t enough, syncing the narration with the right visuals was a challenge too. And we had a deadline to work with. Yikes! Tough facilitators wanted it done in time so that there could be a screening on the fourth day :). It didn’t help that everyone was trying to be a perfectionist, wanted their stories depicted just so!

There was frustration, there were cries for help and poor Jamal, the facilitators and some of us were called upon to assist at various stages of the exercise as data disappeared from laptops and the Movie making apps did all sorts of weird things.

It didn’t help that the internet connectivity was slow and intermittent and that the airconditioning played havoc with our lives. Headphones were broken and some laptops faced static issues.

We had been told that we should only use open source or licensed software and copyright-free images if we wanted to distribute the stories later or use them for training purposes. Certain websites were identified where copyright images and sounds were available.

It is not surprising that many of us worked through the night in order to finish our digital stories, and even then we weren’t really satisfied with them. We wished we had had more time, that we were better illustrators, better photographers, better script writers and narrators, better at putting together a movie.

But when the time finally came for the screening of the Digital Stories we had created, we realized that we had unnecessarily been too hard on ourselves.

As I viewed movie after movie, I was amazed at the way each story had been crafted. The sensitivity and the pain came through each story as did the courage of each of the women whose stories we saw and heard. The talent and technique, the artistry, the ability to put into words something so personal, so deep, so heartbreaking at times that all you wanted to do was go and hug the storyteller.

I think our facilitators were as surprised as we were at what we had accomplished in three days. As I watched them watching the visualization of the stories they had heard that first day, I saw some of the expressions – the empathy, the amazement, the pride and the joy of seeing the result of the process that they had started only a few days earlier.

June 12, 2010 at 11:19 pm 6 comments

The first Feminist Tech Exchange in Pakistan a pleasant surprise

I think that although I have always been an optimist, in many ways I am a cynic as well :). Although I was confident that most of the participants that we had nominated for the first Train the Trainer program of the MDG3 Feminist Tech Exchange were confident, dedicated, talented, hardworking, fun-loving individuals with a strong commitment to making a difference to the society and the community, I wasn’t really sure what the take-away from this first workshop would be.

Having attended zillions of conferences, seminars and workshops over the years, I am very often put off by the format of such things. There are facilitators or speakers who, through those much-dreaded Powerpoints, tell us how much they know, how much they have achieved and what we should do to join the ranks of the successful and be more like them.

Fortunately for us, the FTX facilitators turned out to be pleasantly very different. Jan, Jenny, Val and Cheekay have put a structure to the workshop no doubt, but the space has been very much ours. From the get-go participants have been encouraged to share, to create and to be a part of the proceedings.

It started with the three videos that we were shown. They showed each of us how a simple but impactful message could be created using very basic tools. It didn’t require one to be a creative genius or a nerd.

The story circles were powerful and totally unexpected. The sharing of experiences (our own or those in which we played a central role) revealed much more than any of us had really expected. The struggle, the abuse, the violence, the challenges and the eventual strength, confidence, success and empowerment that resulted from not letting the circumstances engulf us but deciding to survive instead and go on to empower others, was a message that came clearly through.

Sure there were tears as many talked about very personal experiences for the very first time but it resulted in catharsis of a sort although it was unbelievably draining. I think that the sharing of the stories and experiences created a bond between most of the participants. It also showed them that they were not alone, that things happened which were sometimes totally out of their control. It also spelt out quite clearly the many varied societal issues that exist and how some have managed to not only survive them but have got stronger because of it, and are now prepared to help others avoid similar challenges and issues.

More later. Have to attend Day 5.

In the meantime, here are links to blog posts put up by some of the facilitators:

The bright side of Pakistan: women

Sharing our stories in Pakistan

June 11, 2010 at 10:27 am 6 comments

Meet Cheekay …

This is Cheekay Cinco from the Philippines. She has been working with the Association forProgressive Communications (APC)  Women’s Networking Programme and the Strategic Use and Capacity Program for the past 8 years (a dynamic young lady who has no less than 15 tatoos).

In her introduction to the Feminist Practices of Technology in Islamabad yesterday, Cheekay said that in all her years of training men and women in technology, she has found that it is easy to hook young men into buying into a program by just mentioning that it is the latest and coolest technology available. Young women, however, always want to know how the technology they are being asked to learn or adopt can be used to make their own lives better or improve the lives of the people in the communities in which they live.

June 8, 2010 at 8:32 am 5 comments

Stepping Stone – a Digital Story by Huda Sarfaraz

This is one of the videos that Jan Moolman shared at the Feminist Tech Exchange workshop yesterday in Islamabad. It was created by Huda Sarfaraz, a computer science major who works in the Center for Research in Urdu Language Processing in Lahore.

Stepping Stone – Huda Sarfraz from Jan Moolman on Vimeo.

June 8, 2010 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

Feminist Tech Exchange PK kicks off!

When we invited facilitators and experts from the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) to conduct the first Feminist Tech Exchange (FTX) in Pakistan, I was excited. We all were. However, I don’t think any of us could have foreseen how inspiring and powerful the first day of the workshop would be.

A quick look at the FTX Website tells us that:

The Feminist Tech Exchange, also known as the FTX, was developed in response to calls from feminist and women’s rights movements for greater understanding of emerging technologies, their potential and impact on the rights and lives of women.

Through skills sharing, information exchange and discussions, the FTX explores feminist practices and politics of technology, and raises awareness on the critical role of communication rights in the struggle to advance women’s rights worldwide.

The FTX-es also aim to create a connection between ICT and the empowerment of women, for women to take control of technology and use it for their own benefit and for the benefit of the communities and societies in which they live.

The first ever such workshop in Pakistan started in Islamabad yesterday. It was a day I will not soon forget. Digital Story Telling, Online Security and Online Advocacy skills are all very much part of the agenda of this 5 day workshop. In this video, Jan Moolman, the Global Coordinator for the MDG3 project who is an expert from South Africa and a core member of the APC, told us the importance of Digital Stories and read out some prose that explained why people wrote what they did (and why they told the stories that they did). She then went on to show us some of the stories that were developed in other parts of the world by people just like us.

June 8, 2010 at 7:38 am Leave a comment

PSEB wants you!!!

The Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) is looking to fill a number of vacancies. Looks as if  new Managing Director Zia Imran is seriously strengthening the team so that it will be an effective organization – able to support the IT and ITES industry. The jobs can be viewed at http://jobs.pseb.org.pk/.

The key position seems to be that of Director of Operations & Administration and Zia Imran is not looking for just anyone. He wants a high caliber person for this job. Look at the requirements:

At least 10+ years of operations and administration working in a multi-national, hi-technology or performance driven dynamic organization.

The ideal candidate will be a strategic thinker who can put in place long term strategy for building a high performance culture.

The person in this position must be hands on and have designed, benchmarked and optimized processes, rules and procedure.

The person in this position must be fair, neutral and not influenced by organization politics. While sensitive to workplace politics the candidate must be able to build a fair culture based on setting performance goals and organizational needs.

Candidates with advanced knowledge of process and quality/management design patterns like Six Sigma will be strongly preferred

Must have a demonstrable track record of building high performance cultures based on efficiency, hard work, results and meritocracy

Experience in developing and running training programs

Experience in developing effective HR policies, procedures and performance review plans

Click here for more details regarding this position.

The other interesting position is the one for Manager, International Marketing (MARCOM). The pre-requisites for such a position:

PSEB is looking for a dynamic and bright marketer with excellent skills in advertising, branding, running media campaigns, internet promotion and publicity. The candidate must have excellent oral and written communication skills and must be able to develop and write marketing messages, white papers, press releases and presentations. Some event management experience is highly desirable. The ideal candidate must be a flexible individual who can go beyond the call of duty to help in all tasks related to marketing department.

·         At least 4 years of progressively responsible relevant experience in marketing.
·         Excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
·         Work experience working at an advertising company is highly desirable.
·         Must have a demonstrable portfolio of previous work.
·         Sixteen years of Education from a reputed national or international institution recognized by HEC. Candidates from top local schools (IBA, LUMS, NCA) and top tier international institutions will be given preference.
·         Preference will be given to candidates having international exposure and knowledge of multicultural/cosmopolitan environment.
·         Candidates with Internet marketing experience including search engine optimization, social media and web promotions will be given preference. Capability to learn and excel in these areas is highly desirable.
·         Experience in Event Management will be big plus
Click here for more details regarding this position.
Ladies and Gentlemen it will be great to have good people in these positions so if you meet the criteria, apply now!

May 4, 2010 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment


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