Category Archives: workshops

5 people you meet online

Standard

So if you are a living breathing young human being, chances are you spend at least three hours a day on the internet. Apart from being the source of limitless information, the online world is a fantastic way to connect with people. People you wouldn’t really talk to in person. And since every living breathing young human is online during some part of the day, you come across all sorts of people. Or do you? Upon a lot of research (ok may not a lot) I managed to categorize most of the people in five major groups, with sub groups of course.

Town criers:

You know how in olden times, people would stand in the streets, ringing bells and screaming out breaking news to poor unsuspecting crowds?  Yeah well reading history is quite fascinating, try it sometime. Come newspapers and television oh and radio too, and these poor people went out of business. But with internet, they once more got a chance to showcase their talents (which mostly include typing with super fast speed, to break news before anyone else). These town criers usually are the first to know about everything. From Nawaz Sharif’s latest hair count to the name of Obama’s dog, things happen and they find out. And boy they will tell you all about it.

towncrier

 

Attention seeking criers:

While the town criers may be use every now and then, they are outnumbered by the attention seeking criers. These people assume the internet world is a psychiatric couch, where they can cry out their numerous (and trust me they are plenty) problems and be miraculously cured.  Their talent mainly revolves around their ability to turn every incident against themselves, such as the earth conspiring with the sun, to take 23.8 hours to rotate and not 24, robbing them of their precious 2 minutes. How ever will they survive now?

image

Bloody murder criers:

So take into account the following scene. You come across a funny article/meme/video and decide to share it with your online circle. Barely a minute goes by and you see paragraphs upon paragraphs in your comments, warning you of the eternal damnation you just earned by sharing the post. Yes, these are the people finding everything wrong with the way others live, and are self nominated chosen ones on a mission to guide mankind in the right direction.

yelling business man at the office on white

Silent criers:

A person on Facebook, on average has over 200 friends. These include your classmates, colleagues, relatives and the occasional acquaintance you aren’t sure why you befriended. But while you may not know them very well, they know every single detail about you. From the kind of shoes you wear, to the latest diet you are currently on, (because of course you share everything, you are no miser Mary). The silent criers will stalk out every bit of information about you, and also make it a point to like everything you share, but never comment. Oh no they are too smart for that.  It can be safe to assume they also have an entire shoebox full of stuff directly related to you under their beds.

stalker

Self promoting criers:

The slightly less whiny siblings of the attention seeking criers, self promoting criers are online mainly to make you jealous. They can be the cousins/friends who are constantly being used as examples by your parents to shame you about your own miserable existence. These overachievers will make sure everything they do is broadcasted for the world to see. Heck they will post a picture of themselves with a new haircut and tag half their friend-list in it including you (prompting your parents to comment how well they maintain themselves, whereas you can’t even use a hairbrush).

We have all met these five people on the internet. Heck we have even been all five of them at different points in our lives. The sad part is, there is no way around them.

Do you fall in one of the above 5 categories?

The right to be governed Democratically

Standard

The fate of the country is unknown. People are wondering if indeed the elections 2013 will be held as promised. With the current spate of violence across Pakistan, many have decided not to vote at all.

Keeping this view in mind, as well as the growing tensions in the country, the Center for Civic Education Pakistan held a week long course earlier this month to educate 22 young leaders from all over the country.

I too was a part of this course that revolved around elections 2013, focusing on the ‘right to be governed democratically’. The course, led by Mr Zafarullah Khan, Executive Director Centre for Civic Education, discussed the many fundamental rights a citizen has in a country and the extent to which he is aware of them.

IMAG1278

Held in Islamabad, the workshop began on 11th April 2013 and commenced with asking all participants to introduce their partners to the group. This exercise acquainted me with a number of different and incredible people I otherwise could have never met in one room alone.

I came across an incredibly brave lady from Turbat, Balochistan. Working as a social worker, she battled grave dangers everyday to help people of her community. Living is a city where even the basic human right – the right to live, is denied, she carries on trying to make a difference.

I met this young woman from Muzafargarh, Punjab who was doing her Bachelor’s in Nursing, the first girl in her family to do so.

68499_642467592445918_1854966661_n

All in all, I got to be introduced to people who had actually done something with their lives, helped in some way to make a difference to the people around them and truly deserved being a part of the workshop. I on the other hand was there for God knows what reason.

While the course took us through different issues plaguing our society, it also taught us the basic fundamental rights a person has in his country, the history behind these rights, and how countries are answerable to a human rights council via the Universal Periodic Review. A country has to submit a report of all social, economic and political rights given to its people.

This particular class chaired by Mr. Sajid Mansoor Qaisrani talked about Pakistan in general and the two reviews already conducted in the country. The talk also extended to the changes these reviews have brought and those which will be visible in the coming decade or so.

The group with Mr. Sajid Mansoor Qaisrani

The group with Mr. Sajid Mansoor Qaisrani

The workshop wasn’t all learning. Interactive sessions with group work also asked members to discuss the role youth in the upcoming elections, the culture of fundamental rights in their particular community and dealt with the grounds on which the youth plans to vote.

For me the workshop was an eye-opener. Not only did I learn in detail about the constitution of Pakistan, I through healthy debates with fellow participants managed to gauge their mindset.

The best part about this workshop was the way it integrated people from all four provinces of Pakistan and brought them together. I learnt how people live in the different provinces even interior Sindh. They hopefully learnt that people from Karachi aren’t all dead.

During a group session

During a group session

According to a participant from Haripur, currently a student of Peshawar University, Sehrish Mehmood: “It was the most appropriate time to train (us) about the importance of constitution, as our constitutional history is taking new turns. It is important for us to understand it. And CCE (Center for Civic Education)just provided us with the platform to learn and know about it. This course gave me an insight into the importance of democracy and how important a constitution is for a strong state.”

Field visit to the Center of Civic Education.

Field visit to the Center of Civic Education.

Ifrah Faiz, a pilot from Peshawar said: “It was a great experience and a great learning platform where friends from all provinces shared their thoughts, views (over the) prevailing situation in their areas. I strongly believe that we (will) spread the knowledge gained (to) benefit the citizens of our country in our own capacities. As change always starts from our ownselves and then our efforts, will and endeavour take it further to the society. And we must remember that every individual effort counts so don’t forget to vote for election 2013.”

Sheraz Ali from Nowshera stated: “It (the course) was informative and interesting, but depends how we (will) put into practice (the lessons learnt) to fill the gap in.

For Swaleha Malik, the course was ‘a platform where you can voice your opinion.”

An amalgamation of all four provinces, the workshop aimed at lessening the differences between us all. Yet personally I witnessed the opposite. Conversations at lunch started with ‘who are you?’ The right answer being ‘Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pathan’. Me, I just sat there awkwardly saying meekly ‘I am a Pakistani’ because 1) I was born here, 2) I do not belong to any ethnicity and 3) I really do not care about the background of a person before talking to them.

Above all the workshop might have only been for days, it certainly changed me, for the better.

Certificate Distribution

Certificate Distribution

For more information on Center of Civic Education, please visit their website: www.civiceducation.org and http://www.citizenswire.com

A Revival of Craft

Image

There is no shortage of talent in Pakistan. However, there is a serious dearth of recognition. The local artists and the handicrafts industry in the country suffers from the lack of care and genuine interest in the items. Talent, the skill to beautifully craft things is passed down from generations, often getting lost in the process when people are forced to resort to other means for survival.

Adorn – Artisans Development Online Retail Network, is one social enterprise ensuring a proper future for the local artists. The network came into being solely for the purpose of providing support to the artists and promoting their work through social media. This way, a genuine interest in their products is created and a proper channel to market those goods both nationally and internationally is formed. As a result most of earnings and benefits find their way to the pockets of the artists, not the middle dealers.

Adorn partners with various NGOs working in Pakistan particularly with women and children, teaching them valuable skills that can help them run their household. The list of products available by Adorn includes quilts, home accents, children’s bedding and other gift items.

Last week Adorn held an exhibition ‘A Revival of Craft’ featuring the work of the local artists. A number of NGOs participated and displayed their handicrafts. Organizations like Development In Literacy – DIL, SABAH Pakistan, Ra’ana Liaquat Craftsmen’s Colony – RLCC, Indus Resource Centre, Thardeep Rural Development Programme and Aik Hunar Aik Nagar – AHAN.

Once I entered the building, it was like stepping into a completely different world. The wide array of colours left me speechless. The beautiful bags, embroidered clothes, pouches, accessories made my wallet scream in protest. Stalls each bearing the name of the organization proudly exhibited their good and scores of starry eyed women made circles around each buying whatever they could.

My heart set on this gorgeous blue handbag by AHAN, which I unfortunately didn’t buy. But someone in front of me did, and I silently implored them to take care of it.

Creating a proper market for handmade goods which have a demand all over the world is a great way of connecting the artists with their buyers. This way not only do the artists reap maximum benefits for their hard work, the buyers too can be sure of the authenticity of the items they buy. This also is a great way of bringing to light the tremendous potential a country like Pakistan has and can offer if given half the chance.

People interested in viewing these products can either browse through their online store on Facebook page ADORN or visit their website www.adornonline.org.

Be an Etihad Guest!

Standard

There are some people who love to travel. And there are some people others wish would travel. I luckily fall in both categories.

The world being full of beautiful places to visit, breathtaking sites to see, nobody can claim to live a full life without seeing it in all its majesty.

If you are a globetrotter, and wish to travel in style, you are in for a surprise. Visiting new places is a thrilling adventure. However the actual travelling part kills the joy. One has to suffer horribly bland food, screaming babies kicking your seats and above all the jetlag! But nothing matters once you touch concrete right? Wrong. If travelling drains you of all your energy what are you left with for the more important things? Zilch, nothing, nada!

Fear not, Etihad airways is here to make sure that doesn’t happen. Already the world’s leading award winner for 2011, Etihad airways continues striving to make the travelling bit of you globetrotters for business and pleasure, as comfortable as possible. And not just that, Etihad awards you with its exclusive guest points for doing what you love immensely. (Travelling in case I got too vague).

The Etihad Guest loyalty programme now in partnership with Avari Hotel International makes sure that you don’t just fly in comfort, but spend every hour having the time of your life! Etihad guests choosing to stay at Avari earn 1 mile for every USD that they spend. Furthermore they can enjoy innumerable facilities reserved for them under the agreement.

Pakistan is rapidly becoming one of the top ten countries Etihad airways cater to, running 23 flights per week from Abu Dhabi to Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar.

I recently visited the Etihad properties in Avari Hotels Karachi, and let me tell you I was rendered speechless. Doing the talking for me are these pictures below.  See for yourself what exactly you can expect if you choose to fly Etihad and be an esteemed guest at their Avari property.

One of the luxurious rooms exclusively for you women of the hour! With an all female staff looking after their every needs, women can comfortably lay back in between their excursions. No man can ruin this for you!

While you relax, check out the amazing view from the rooms! Not enough stamina to venture out? Just sit back at enjoy the skyline of this amazing city that never sleeps! I strongly advise no jumping into the pool no matter how refreshing it looks from up here. We’ll get to it in just a bit.

The Asia Live dinning area where you can treat yourself to exotic food hot off the oven. It is open 24 hours a day, so don’t hesitate to pay a visit if those pesky midnight cravings bother you.

Ahhh the pool. Knock yourselves out. Excluded from the world between shady green trees, the pool will provide you the much needed relief from the sweltering heat of Karachi.

The fully equipped Gym where you can burn off those calories you picked up at the Asia Live dinning area. The food being irresistible, you can fill up to your heart’s content and simply work off here.

After a tiring day, pay a visit to the spa! Waiting to refresh you is this Jacuzzi. Take dip, and let your worries bubble away.

And if the Jacuzzi doesn’t do the trick, have a massage to calm down those frenzied nerves of yours. Forget meetings, schedules, live in the moment.

Have to meet someone? Head down to the Cinnamon Lounge! Treat yourself to a cup of coffee, or a Cinnamon iced tea (my recommendation) to get an instant boost of energy.

The Cinnamon Iced tea is a must try!

Do you still need more convincing? How’s this? Guests who fly Etihad and stay at Avari in UAE or Pakistan before June 30th earn double guest miles. So get packing!

A Letter to Ashraful Makhlokaat!

Standard

The team

My department at the university is blessed with some of the most gregarious and social people on the planet. In 2008 some of them laid the foundation of an organization known as KUMAK. Headed by a group of seven people known as the ‘Majlis -e- Shoora’  KUMAK has nearly 40 members. From organizing trips to clean up a neighborhood in old Karachi, to brightening up the day of the elderly living in an old people’s home KUMAK has done it all. Very recently they held an event ‘Khuwab Martay Nahe’  dedicated to the dreams the youth of the world carries in its minds. The main feature of this event was a letter writing competition with no age restrictions. Finding the topic very interesting, I too sent in an entry, and very surprisingly came in first.The judge happened to be one of the most respectable teachers in my department! Without gloating too much, I am attaching the ‘award winning’ letter below. Comments will be appreciated.

The Event

To Ashraful Makhlokaat.

It sounds as if I am addressing a Bangladeshi cricketer rather than humanity at large. However my dear Ashraful Makhlokaat, this letter is solely for you. Ever since I can remember, I heard how mankind is the best creation of the Lord Almighty. How with its extra power to think, it holds superiority over every other living creature in the world. But with the fast degrading societies, I am starting to question do you really deserve to be called Ashraful Makhlokaat?

The ability to think, distinguish right from wrong, choose the best possible options, etc has today given rise to a world where technological advancement has managed to break free from most limitations. However in the quest for greatness, you have left behind the most important thing, compassion for your fellow Ashrafuls. No still not the cricketer.

Your human instincts have proved worthy of battling the most challenging adversities. You have survived nightmarish calamities like floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. You have found a way of adapting to unbearable situations, like prolonged load shedding and street crimes. You have managed to master the art of inventing things in the wake of need. Such as the torch enabled Nokia 1150, a smart solution to address both the problems mentioned above. But you still lack concern for one another.

While murdering an Ashraful in cold blood hardly raises goose-bumps anymore, you have now started consuming one another too. Cannibalism was never fun, not for the one being eaten anyway, but to imagine an Ashraful doing it? Isn’t that a bit too low even for you? With the blatant killings in the name of honor, gang rapes of children, blowing up innocent people for practicing their religion, just when I thought you cannot stoop any lower you surprised me by pulling off this stunt. A group of men digging up graves to make human karhai, a woman taking the phrase ‘serve your husband’ too literally.

My dear Ashraful Makhlokaat, what went wrong? And where? Clearly the message of you being superior to all living things became corrupt along the way. When it was stated that you are superior, The Lord used ‘you’ in a collective way, as in the entire mankind. That includes you and you and that homeless guy whom you shun in disgust as well a model who chooses to bare all for a magazine cover.

The award

The sad part is that your life has become a constant battle to put each other down. Your societies carry a death wish that is expressed through the choices every individual Ashraful makes. Where you were once the best of every creation, you are now becoming the worst. Even the existence of dinosaurs is said to have been erased by a meteor, you however have decided to wipe out your own race by killing each other over the most trivial excuses.

Isn’t it time for you to sit back and finally put to use that extra large brain that the Lord blessed you with. Use it for other than plotting evil schemes and coming up with ways to outsmart each other. Use it to co-exist peacefully. Already your selfish practices are bringing Armageddon closer, with the pollution and oil spills and nuclear bombs. And if science is to be believed, only us cockroaches will make it to the end of time. You all will to die soon. Might as well make it worthwhile for everyone.

Your Sincerely

A cock roach.

Comics Power- A tool for Democracy

Standard

I first met Nida Shams when I signed up for the World Grassroot Comics workshop held in my university last year. Little did i know that this workshop will change my life completely. I always been horrible at drawing, and i always wanted to draw, Comics Power, gave me the opportunity to draw all the while expressing myself.

Grassroot Comics is not like your average superman or batman comics, it is an NGO working with several countries, trying to get ordinary common people to express their views about different things that plague them. The organization speaks just one language: art. people participating in the event first think of a story, usually something they have experienced first hand and then picture it as a four panel comic. And there is not much effort required either. Anyone can make, Trust me when i say anyone. All you need is a pencil, eraser, black pointer, black marker and a ruler and two printer sheets.

Nida is part of World Comics Network- Pakistan, and has been to the different areas of the country working with scores of people especially women, most of whom are uneducated. The art, then becomes the only way for them to communicate with the rest of the world.

The first workshop that i attended in my university with some of friends proved to be one of the most fruitful and satisfying thing i have done in a long time. The first poster I made titled “Jammed for Life”, revolved around a groom stuck in traffic due to a government official being in town, and when after hours he finally makes it to the hall, he is arrested by the government for getting married so late in the night.

Nida was kind enough to appreciate my lack of talent in the drawing area, and egged me to create more posters. Whether it was my talent, (or the lack of it) that interested people in it, my poster was selected to be displayed in an exhibition held in Delhi this year in June along with 5 other posters from the country. All in all, 30 posters from countries like Sri Lanka, India, UK, Nepal, Brazil and Laos were selected for the exhibition and I am proud to say I was a part of it.

Recently in July, Nida held a one day workshop titled “Being a girl in Karachi”. It was supposed to be exclusively for girls in Karachi, expressing the different issues they have to face. A group of eight or nine girls attended the first workshop. While each expressed different problems they faced as a girl in Karachi, the most common concept was eve teasing.

I wanted my poster to be something different, something which reflected the condition of women, but also something which taught them to take control of the situation instead of feeling helpless. So this poster of mine, I’ll be attaching for you all to see, judge and comment on.

Another workshop on tolerance is to be held from July 20th to 22nd by World Grass Comics in association with Human Rights Commission of Pakistan especially for the youth. With the growing unrest in the city, I think this is a very effective way to reach out to people and make a difference. Those interested in attending, a copy of the invitation card is attached, please get yourself registered as early as possible as the seats are limited.

Till next time Arrivederci

Sidra

Microsoft’s Workshop on Digital Journalism

Standard

In a room full of professional people, where even the tea cup knew what it was meant to do, i sat utterly blank trying hard not to look stupid. It was the first day of my internship, and as luck would have it, my boss assigned me to go on a field trip with the assistant editor to report on the event.

So dutifully i arrived at the building ready to gain some experience. I was seated next to some journalists from different news mediums like newspapers, television channels, etc, and already feeling intimidated I tried blending in. The workshop began. The moderator Mr. Shoaib Khalil, Marketing Lead of Microsoft Pakistan began outlining the importance of digital tools in journalism that help make transmission of news a much less complex process.

During the discussion the topic of blogging came up. Whether it is a useful platform in the transmission of news or a mere hindrance. While being a blogger myself I definitely leaned towards the good side, but some very valid points were presented in front of me that made me think, if not completely change my mind.

Blogging though very convenient is seen as a more personal ranting place rather than a forum for discussing hard news. Even though many bloggers do use it for that purpose, the private opinions and views and even biases the individual has, which have no place in a hard news, find their way through words in a blog. Also in a blog you can get away with almost anything. Whether your matter is verified or not, whether what you say is accurate, a blog can incorporate it all

But the fact remains, blogging is in today’s world the best medium to connect with others who share similar tastes and opinions.  The conversation then continued on to the different social networks which have now influenced almost more than half of the world, and their role in the transmission of news. While talking about Facebook in general, Mr Khalil said “if it were a country, Facebook would be the 3rd largest in the world with five hundred million users.”

He was surprised to find Facebook disabled in most workplaces in Pakistan, saying that in other countries, Facebook is seen as a great medium to stay updated with the current happenings. His viewpoint was a little vague. The importance of Facebook is lost in Pakistan he said. We see it more as a place to ‘kill time’ while people in other countries use it as a social medium to broadcast news, a case in particular being the recent uprising in Egypt. I agree. Here in Pakistan, Facebook is just a site where people with similar interests, (and some not so much) add each other and stay connected. I myself use Facebook to ‘refresh’ my mind in between work.

After Khalil, a second presentation on Microsoft’s new cloud computing was given by Mr. Zafar ul Islam, the Enterprise Technology Strategist at Microsoft Pakistan. Ok here I will be bluntly honest. Though I am familiar with the concept of cloud computing, much of the presentation was lost on me. I understood some of the different terms he used  like SaaS, platform as a service, infrastructure, IT management, data centers, the rest was a little hazy. I tried very hard not to yawn. Once more I began to question my presence in the room.

After two long hours when the presentation concluded not a moment too soon, we were given a tour of the newly opened facility of Microsoft Pakistan in the Forum Building, followed by a hi tea. the sandwiches were really good but I could not enjoy them for long, as it was time for me to head back and file the report.