It has always been a known stereotype that ‘women are meant to run a household, produce children and then die’. Therefore, Maria Umar doesn’t believe this notion, because she believes that this isn’t the only pre-destined fate for a woman. She is the president and founder of Women’s Digital League (WDL) – an online platform, that provides digital expertise and employment to Pakistani women. She has been working in the online digital outsourcing sphere for more than 5 years to provide women with home based work.
Business Start-up Inspiration:
We all need that spark to ignite a fire within us. For Maria, it was: “Getting fired! I taught at a private school for 3 years. They let me go because I was expecting a baby and their maternity leave policy was almost non-existent. During this time I found online work. And it made me realize this was the perfect way to work for women in Pakistan who are largely discouraged from working outside their homes.”
In a Pakistani society, women are mostly driven into the marital setting, the moment they reach of age, but Maria’s family provided their full on support to her in following her dreams. Even though, it was hard for her family to understand her seriousness in writing on screen articles for 5-8 hours, they still remained her constant source of encouragement. Moreover, it was her determination towards the dedicated ’cause’ of doing something noteworthy that gained the admiration of her family and then her friends.
All she wanted was to spread awareness that there is an organization that can train and supply suitable home-based jobs for women. Because, a woman is more than just a vessel from which mankind is produced. She has her own separate identity that deserves to be acknowledged through the work she does, rather it is domestic or professional. The aims included flexibility in working hours and to develop an organization that today is know by the name: Women’s Digital League, that functions to carry it’s purpose of educating and administering work to women who seek employment and professional grooming.
When asked about the future goals, here is what Maria entailed: “I would first like to take WDL to the most far flung areas of Pakistan, and then expand to other countries where women face similar changes in the job market as they do here.”
Range of Women’s Digital League:
Their freelancing community covers all over Pakistan. Anyone is welcome to apply to any course that is outlined on Facebook or Twitter pages. Every time a new task comes in we post it to our Facebook page and on Twitter. Anyone can apply. That’s the beauty of online work. Physical location doesn’t mean anything. Women specially come from Peshawar, Karachi, Hunza, Gujranwala, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and several other places for the workshops that in time prove to be beneficial for them.
Few of the many courses that were conducted:
1. Training in Digital Livelihood for Women
2. Training on Livelihood of Women
3. Facebook Partners training Pakistani women
Project Artemis/Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Program
This was the turning point of her career, when Business Professors from Silicon Valley coached her.
Succeeding to the finale of GIST’s : “I Dare” business plan competition was a major encouragement, yet an achievement for Maria. Google Pakistan profiled WDL in its online campaign showcasing innovation in the use of technology.
Early Stage Award
Maria was nominated a ‘Thought Leader’ by Ashoka Changemakers. Women’s Digital League also won the Early Stage Award in Changemakers’ “Women Powering Work” competition.
International and National Publications:
She is published in Mashable, Forbes, Virgin, Ashoka, Dawn to name a few, as an ‘Innovative Leader’ . Maria works diligently to motivate young girls to opt for STEM at an early age through the Technovation Challenge.
Workshops are being held in (LCWU) Lahore College for Women University and Alauddin Academy in Lahore. Maria stresses on conducting more training programs in KPK.
Advice from Maria to Pakistani Women:
“Don’t be a victim. Take a good look at your life, accept what can not be fixed and focus on what can be changed or improved. Dream big and do not listen to any naysayers. The first step to making dreams come true is to have the courage to dream them.”