Raising Awareness for CP in Pakistan

Just completed a 7- card beginner’s Awareness deck for . ¬†Nothing too fancy, but the facts are important. Gearing up for . Share friends! ūüôā

If you are interested in volunteering, join our Facebook Group here and like the page here. Visit Step Up Pakistan’s website to find out more about why we are trying to put Pakistan on the map this October 5th.

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Taking a page from Edhi’s Book

A few years back I set upon reading Abdul Sattar Edhi’s autobiography, A Mirror to the Blind*, with my highlighter and black pen in hand. ¬†As a Pakistani who has witnessed the extent of Edhi’s humanitarian efforts in action, from fast-responding ambulances to the ever-present cradles at the donation centres, I thought there was little about him that hadn’t become folklore.

13590326_1010126859037163_8249178195416169058_nI was mistaken.

To learn about Edhi, in his own words, is to learn about Pakistan and Karachi with new eyes. His sleeping on the bench outside the very first Edhi Centre, a simple room in Mithadar to his tireless devotion to his mother ; at times such immense acts of humility were casually remarked upon by Edhi that it made me feel ashamed. ¬†Ashamed that the rigmarole of everyday life has taken me so far away from the basic tenets of my religion, that which is based upon community service and peace, that I only take part fully every year in Ramadan. It is during Ramadan that I sense at least some degree of satisfaction, ‘yes, I have given my all to my community’, yet even that is illusory and I know it. ¬†True service is constant, sustainable and hidden.

One of my favorite quotes shares Edhi’s mother’s advice about giving charity explains the hidden concept best:

¬†“In the holy month of Ramadan she collected other Memon ladies and made bundles of foodstuff, which she sent me to drop through the windows of poor people or needy relatives. All the while her soft whispery voice echoed behind me, “It is charity only when your left- hand¬†does not know what the right has given. When the respect of the receiver is foremost.”¬†

When news came of Edhi Sahib’s passing, it was a shock. Not only because it seemed that his guidance will always be there but also because in some ways his service had made him larger than life. In life, Edhi had become a legend. ¬†In death, Edhi has become a template for ¬†human development and selfless social work.¬†

It feels as if we have been given an opportunity, as Pakistanis, to give back to our communities without the shackles of prejudice and intolerance. ¬†The next time a living being is in need, ask yourself, What would Edhi do? and set forth without a moment’s hesitation. I will do the same.

*(This book is meant to read and re-read. ¬†I can not do justice to it with a hurried review. If you haven’t put it on your ‘to-be-read’ pile, do so now.)


Did You Know This About Cerebral Palsy? #WorldCPDay2015

In observance of World Cerebral Palsy Day, which is tomorrow on Wednesday 7th October, I have signed up with the good folks over at Step Up Pakistan (a volunteer group) to spread awareness about CP.   I highly recommend you click over to the map to read the stories from around the world, from men and women with CP to friends and family members.

5 Facts for World Cerebral Palsy Day – 07.Oct. 2015

  1. Cerebral Palsy is a life-long physical disability due to damage of the developing brain.
  2. Globally, approximately 17 million people have Cerebral Palsy (CP).
  3. Early Detection has a tremendous positive effect on children with CP who receive treatment. ¬†Cerebral Palsy, except in it’s mildest forms, can be evident in the first 12 to 18 months.
  4. It can range from weakness in one hand, to an almost complete lack of voluntary movement requiring 24 hour care.
  5. Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for a group of disorders. It is a condition that is permanent, but not unchanging.*

*Source: Cerebral Palsy Alliance Website

CatalystWoman.com is Alive! + <3 WordPress.com + Fix Online Payment Methods

This story contains a roller coaster of emotions – the thrill of creation (when the Catalyst Woman was conceived), the excitement of the chase ( choosing a blogging platform, had to be WordPress.com), the nervousness setting in ( as I opted for a payment method to map my pre-purchased domain to the blog) and much more.

Here’s a little background: I was pleased to find out that today marks my 9th Anniversary with WordPress.com.

Superb news! I have opted for WordPress.com every time I needed to create content, be it for work or for play; despite brief flirtations towards others (Tumblr, Blogger, lookin’ at ya).

However, this celebration was tad bittersweet. Reason being that since I live in Pakistan, I had opted to sync up my pre-purchased domain  [catalystwoman.com] with my pre-existing blog here on WordPress.com. It was all pretty simple until the payments method for the Domain Mapping/Hosting options came up.

Since Paypal has YET to support Pakistani potential consumers, the only other option available was to try out a credit card or debit card. That I did. However, my Pakistan-based debit/credit cards (Visa-Shisa, Mastercard -Shastercard)  were a no-go.

This was over 6 months ago!  The normal route would be to pull a favor from a friend based in the North America and wire them the equivalent amount.  Alternatively, it would be to transfer over my blog to another service that is more accessible for a Pakistani-based content producer.

I was in a tough spot.

I LOVE WordPress.com.

I LOATHE¬†unnecessary favors. ¬†You never know when you’ll need to cash one in, a.k.a. Alien attack scenario.

Work took over, Life took over and the decision was hanging there Р untaken. 

Fast-forward to the present:  I share my delight on marking 9 years with WordPress.com ( 10 years blogging officially) on Twitter.  A friend gently reminds that it may be time to graduate to the big leagues (Thanks Faisal). I share that indeed I have a domain waiting in the vault, but without all the gory detail shared with you here.

Wordpress.com <3

Couple of hours later, I get an e-mail from Rachel, a Happiness Engineer at WordPress.com, who noticed the tweet and gifted me a generous amount of WP.com credits on account of the anniversary!   So Awesome!  

Viktor Frankenstein Moment
My Apologies, Mary Shelley

I instantly plugged in the credits and now Catalystwoman.com is  ALIVE!  *cue Dr. Viktor Frankenstein* I mean the site is LIVE. 

Kudos, WordPress.com, kudos!

While this is a great development and I am immensely grateful, I do have a request.

Can you (WordPress.com Team) look into alternative payment methods/options for your loyal Pakistani consumers? 

We use MasterCard/Visa  debit and credit cards that work internationally and many of us who work/freelance/ telecommute online  are paid via Skrill or Payoneer.  These are all quick, easy and pain-free payment methods that will make keeping us global workers engaged with WordPress.com and WordPress.org all the much easier.  It would make sense to continue your exemplary customer experience by sorting out this payments issue in an Emerging Market like Pakistan.

Waiting to hear back from my friends at WordPress.com.

Meanwhile, I have a site to work on.

Digital Security Training: Privacy + Social Media Workshop @ ShirkatGah, Lahore

20150606_113836-COLLAGEThis past weekend I had the privilege of being invited by my good friend Nabiha to present on Privacy & Social Media at the Digital Security Training session. The workshop took place at Shirkat Gah’s library, another one of my favourite places to hang out in Lahore. ¬†(Libraries in general are at top of my list. But I digress.)

Yes! Back to the workshop!

It was a cozy, chatty atmosphere with lots of questions and hands-on training, both for my topic as well as the one on encryption. I really enjoyed talking about the fast evolution of social media accounts and how ethics strongly figures into our behaviours, on-line and off-line. I purposefully include a section on cyber-bullying and other negative online social interactions- as always there was an engaging discussion about the cause and effects of trolling on the digital native. ¬†I have put the slides up on Slideshare, check’m out.

Ghausia from BoloBhi walked us through the amusing, awe-inspiring and definitely paranoia-inducing world of online privacy. I will get into the excellent points she raised and share why I know believe we should ALL be using encryption in the upcoming podcast.

National Savings Bank of Pakistan- Stuck in the Past

The Scene:

I knew what that was. THAT ¬†was the standard “ignore-and-avert-eyes” tactic being employed by the mustachioed clerk at the National Savings¬†Bank .

Here I was, a regular Pakistani citizen, pestering the employee with questions when it was quite clear that he had only had his second cup of tea*.  He hung his head lower and buried himself in the busy-work occupying him Рactual files and folders cascading all over the desk. (*sarcasm intended)

Continue reading “National Savings Bank of Pakistan- Stuck in the Past”

Cyber Crime Bill 2015: What’s Next?

Cyber Crime Bill  2015 Meeting Update
Cyber Crime Bill 2015 Meeting Update
Update on CyberCrime Bill 2015 Meeting

As mentioned in an earlier post, one the most pressing matters in Pakistan these days is the contents of the proposed Cyber Crime Bill, or  the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) 2015.

Following the disappointment that the Public Hearing granted was in effect just a 90 minute session with a handful of¬†stakeholders, ¬†there has been some promising news coming out yesterday’s meeting in Islamabad. ¬† According to this report from Dawn, ¬†following a dedicated push by the attending stakeholders, the¬†National Assembly Standing Committee on IT has agreed to delay presenting the bill to Parliament as-is and is willing to work with stakeholders to fix flaws.

So what? what does this mean?

As citizens, we now have a narrow window of opportunity to ensure our concerns are heard before the Cyber Crime Bill is presented to Parliament.

Here are some ideas:

#1¬†Let’s¬†educate ourselves on the contents of the Cyber Crime Bill 2015, a draft of which can be found here.

#2   Grab a section of the bill that best intersects with your area of expertise. If  you handle a civil dialogue, you are welcome to join this Facebook group and  delve a little deeper here.

Some of the concerns about the proposed law include:

  • One piece of legislation can not possibly encompass all concerns and aspects coming under the banner of Cyber Crime. It ranges from cyberterrorism to spamming. The topics are simply too vast and complex to be competently covered in a single bill.
  • Bill doesn’t differentiate between ethical hacking and malicious hacking.
  • ‚Ä™PECB2015‚Ĩ takes away the citizen’s ability to challenge blocking / banning of websites/content.
  • The text limits satire & parody – which is seen as a way for citizens to express views and let off some steam.

#3¬†Get in touch with organizations and individuals who are also advocating for the best possible version of the Cyber Crime Bill 2015 and submit recommendations to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on IT & Telecomm.

Bolo Bhi

Digital Rights Foundation РPakistan 

Bytes for All

Media Matters for Democracy

Catalyst Woman

No Public Hearing for Cyber Crime Bill! Let’s Tweetstorm to Get Heard!

Following yesterday’s appeal for a web conferencing component to be added to the Public Hearing on the Cyber Crime Bill 2015 (PECB2015), there is a disappointing update.

According to Dawn, the National Assembly’s Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication has extended an invited to only 6 people, supposed ‘stakeholders’ on Friday’s hearing. ¬†This is in no way how a public hearing ¬†should be held. ¬†Let’s call it what it is – a ¬†private meeting.¬†

Now what? 

CW PECB2015 Tweetstorm BlogPost Header

I suggest we begin a tweetstorm at 9¬†p.m. Pakistan Standard Time tonight – for 12 hours straight until the slated time for the private meeting – to raise awareness of the public’s concerns about the Cyber Crime Bill in it’s current state. There should be a public debate on all aspects of the bill.

Starting from 9 p.m. sharp, tonight on Twitter, I request us all to put our thinking hats on and tweet about what concerns you about the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (PEC) Bill 2015 *.

Remember to add the following four hashtags:

#CitizensVoiceonPECB  #tweetstorm #Pakistan  #PECB2015 . 

*Source:  PDF version of the PEC Bill from Bolo Bhi, a non-profit focused on advocacy, policy and research  on gender rights, government transparency, internet access, digital security and privacy.