Internet and social network, two things parents in Pakistan are most scared to hear. The reality is that most of the urban society has access to it and they use it for many purposes. As of my story, The first time I ever saw computer back in 1998. When computers were rarely available in Pakistan. The hardware was a lot expensive and very less software were available. The computer was actually a gift from my father to my one and only brother. The first time I saw it I felt it like I met the love of my life. Not exaggerating but it was really fascinating for me to see a big box like screen and a long vertical machine known as CPU.
I wanted to know it, to experience it, to figure out what this magic machine is. But as I was just 8 years old and wasn't even allowed to touch it's cable. I decided to learn it in my heart but I also knew it that it will be not be possible because my brother will kill me if I touch it. Finally I decided to observe how to start and shut it down. I started spending time near computer when my brother use to work on it. I learned to start and shut it down, how to run some applications and even connect to internet. All by observing and when my brother used to go out to play. I used to practice what I observed and all of a sudden I finally learned how to use this magic machine known as "Computer". But in few days my brother realized that there's something wrong. He checked the history and I was all of a sudden under interrogation. I confessed that yes I used it and I like using it please grant me sometime daily to use it. I was bashed hardly and was threatened to never touch it again and lastly he put password on his computer. I felt devastated that why I can't use computer? Why internet is not in my access? Why my family is stopping me. It was just learning technology. Atter some months when I got promoted to 6th grade, our school introduced a course of computer and we had access to a small lab with few computers. So my teacher taught us how to start a computer and I was super excited to show it to my friends that I already know it. I wanted to spend more time on it but as there was only one lab and all the classes had to use it so I could only have few mins on computer once a week or sometimes months. I kept thinking what to do as I wanted learn more and more. Then one of my class fellow told me about internet cafe and where you can use computer for an hour but you have to pay them hourly to use it. I joined a local internet cafe near to my house, I used to sneak to the internet cafe without telling to my family as they will not let me. The fee for an hour to use computer was equal to my pocket money of whole week. But I decided to sacrifice on my candies so I can eat candies later in my life. I got my first own computer at the age of 19 and it was without internet for my #safety. For all the previous years I had to use my friends computers, internet cafe or sometime in school.
Why I called it for my safety? The answer is that parents in Pakistan are still scared to introduce technology to their children especially daughters. The reason is that they think that it will ruin them, make them independent and it will show them ways to become a rebel. I strongly believe that the most strict parents produce the best liars. Getting your daughters away from technology like cell phones, computer and internet access will not make your daughter a good daughter but if you won't tell her what's wrong and what's right it surely will ruin your daughter. Parents should be educated to technology first of all and should also educate their children. Keep a proper check and balance that what their children are doing in online world. If I would have gotten the opportunity to learn computer freely when I saw computer for the first time I would have been surely a computer engineer today. The saddest part was that I never wanted those barbie dolls instead I wanted to learn, explore and experience the technology. Even today we call to live in an age of information world. I would still say that countries like Pakistan as information poor. One of the main reason is that 51% of its population are women. Women who are not allowed freely to use computer and you will hardly see a woman using computer in an internet cafe. The reason that it's not appropriate to go outside and connect with people online. Urban areas societies are still far more better. People have progressed and letting their daughters learn technology and use internet. But 70% of Pakistan population lives in rural areas. Rural areas where women are being raped, forced marriages, honor killing, child marriages or being subjected to domestic violence.
The question is how to give voices to these women so they can let their voices be heard on a mass level. The answer to this question is very simple and it is to either beat the drum of failure and misery all the time or to become a leader and make amendments for the future generation. If today I stop speaking and get scared of all the threats I get. I will not only do unjust with myself but will also make another generation of women be coward. We need to stand up and make policies about this. It's only we who can do it. Nobody will come and do our homework.
So here are my recommendations and plans to make women computer and technology literate. 1- Make proper computer labs even in primary schools. Instead of taking kids away from computer, teach them how to use it or they will use it secretly anyway, like me. 2- Schools in rural areas need to work more towards teaching specially girl how to use mobile phones, computer and tell the good and bad outcome of using the technology. 3- Urban areas need to have more computer tuition centres. It should be designed and runned by government where women are taught computer for free. They should also have flexible timings so women who are married or doing jobs could also get the opportunity to learn it. 4- Share your knowledge. Trust me sharing makes it double. If you know how to use computer teach it to your sister, friend or anybody else who is interested to learn it. Tell them how to use this magic machine and how to use internet and connect with the world. 5- Teaching technology is not only what we need. The thing I loved about VOF training was teaching us how to be secure in an online world. So teaching proper safety instructions are also very important. 6- Pakistan is a country where there is not proper act against cybercrime. It should be kept in mind that the first computer #virus was generated from Pakistan. We need to have a proper cybercrime bill and it should also be applicable and executed. 7- Stealing women pictures and making fake ID's on facebook, twitter or orkut has become a fashion almost all around the world. But in Pakistan sometimes it leads women to endup their life as they're embarrassed to live after their parents, friends or relatives figure it out. Pictures Copyrights violation should be taken as a serious act of crime and should have hard punishment for the culprits. 8- Parents should not stereotype children. Girls not always want barbie dolls. Give other toys to small girls as well observe their field of interest and let them become what they want to become. It all starts from the very beginning. Don't snatch something from your children which is God gifted. 9- Government need to look into introducing technologies like 3G in Pakistan. Make internet faster so we can compete the world. 10- Make separate internet cafe for women in rural as well as urban areas. Keep minimum fee and give equal opportunity for women who wants to let their voices be heard on mass level.
At the end when I'm about to sum up my piece of article on this great campaign of "women weave the web" I would like to tell to my readers that in 2004 at the age of 9 years a small Pakistani girl "Afra Karim" became the youngest microsoft certified professional. If she could do it at such a small age why can't our daughters do it? The answer is when you let them do it.WWW: Women Weave the Web