CodeGirlsKarachi is a dream come true for all of us and in this journey of learning, compassion and improving ourselves, there are a few people in our team who made a huge impact on how we work and organize ourselves.
So this time around, we are featuring Munira Zehra, our program manager at CodeGirls. She is not only an excellent professional but an amazing human being and has been like a guide and mentor to everyone who is involved in the program in any capacity.
Munira is with us since the inception of this program and we have seen her grow and learn with it and with her personal touch of humility and compassion, she has become the most beloved person in our team.
We sent her a few questions a couple of weeks ago and you can read her thoughts below.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your education, and your previous work experience.
Let’s just start with my name, Munira. I have done my matric from the federal board. I completed my intermediate and bachelor’s after I got married and did my bachelor’s degree in English Advance from Karachi University. I later joined ConsulNet in 2002, as an MS Office Instructor, and worked there for two years. I have been teaching since then.
I am a wife and a mother with a lot of passion in me fueled by my family. I have been blessed with an amazing family, the most supportive husband, who has always been there in every decision I have made, especially, about my career. I have learned the true meaning of passion for my career through my three beautiful children who are very passionate about their respective fields. They taught me how I, as a woman, am capable of doing everything.
What inspired you to join CodeGirls and continue working for the program?
When my sister, Shamim Rajani and a good friend, Faiza Yousuf, initiated the idea of Code Girls, I got truly inspired by their work as I saw it as a great opportunity to get on board and do something for our society and all our amazing women.
What is the best part about working for a program run by women, for women?
I believe that a woman can truly relate to another woman and their struggles on a more personal level. I was privileged enough to have an amazing husband behind me, but not many women have that blessing and so if we as women support each other maybe we can help them face their struggles and achieve what they desire.
I have seen some amazingly strong women in my life who have struggled through so much just to make sure they are doing something good. Why go far when we have them in front of our eyes, none other than Shamim and Faiza, who did so much for the betterment of our girls and continue to do so. Five batches have successfully graduated, five batches of bright girls marching towards great job opportunities, I cannot explain how happy and proud I am of these young women!
How do you think this program can change things for women looking for opportunities in technology?
As far as I have seen in two years of my work experience here, 500 girls have graduated and among them, about 75 girls have successfully been employed by reputable companies while others are successfully going places as well. If this continues, I truly believe that in the upcoming years, considering the rate at which girls are getting internship and job opportunities, our women will surely rule the industry very soon. All we need is your endless love and support.
What are the best lessons you have learned while managing the program?
I have learned that if these young women are given the chance, they have the talent and intellect to have a successful career, all they need is some support and a little nudge towards the right direction into the technical Industry. They have so much energy and determination to go further in life, all they require is an affordable and honest platform to support them, believe in them and educate them.
How important are teaching core skills to the participants alongside the technical training component?
I believe that the core skills workshops we have done, go hand in hand with the technical classes and are absolutely essential. They should not only know the work but also know how to tackle different problems and issues at a workspace. The soft skills workshops we provide for them is to make sure they are confident and fearless not just at work but in life overall.
What kind of change do you see in women graduating from the program?
I could see that most girls were hesitant to talk about the problems they were facing in the beginning when they joined. At the time of graduation, they came up to me and told me how excited they were to learn more and implement what they have already learned here. I have seen my girls grow up and turn into strong women. Girls who could not even start a conversation are now working and leading confidently.
How important do you think financial inclusion is for women in our local communities?
I strongly believe that it is very important for women to work alongside a man and support their families. That does not only keep the idea of financial inclusion alive but also helps her polish her skills and find out her talents that she probably never knew about until she started working. When a woman has financial independence, she can make the best decisions for herself and her family with confidence. I have worked almost my entire life after marriage not just because I loved to work but to support my family as well. I wanted to make sure my kids get the best education, to be an example for them and to show every woman in my life that no matter how good or bad your family life is when you work hard and make your own money, you can stand on your own with confidence.
Do you think Pakistan has changed as a society, in terms of accepting career-oriented women? What needs to change to help more women come forward?
I feel a lot has changed, to be honest. Back when I was a kid, I could see many girls struggling to get what they wanted because of the lack of opportunities around them. Today, when I see many girls coming forward, in every girl that comes to us I can see the change. It gets even better when they come with their family members for their registration, I feel like maybe there is a chance for the past mindsets to change as well. Considering this is just a small part of Pakistan, I do see a change here in society. People have started accepting that it is important for girls to get a good education, which was hardly the case a couple of decades back. I am all about women supporting women, but I also encourage the men to support their mothers, wives, daughters or any female in the family and their circle to stand up for themselves. Knowing their father, brother, husband or son has their back gives a new level of confidence to women which no one can ever defeat.
What do you see in the future for CodeGirls?
I can see a very promising future for these girls and our program, considering the rate at which our numbers are growing. I hope and pray to spread our program all over Pakistan especially to underprivileged areas, pray it all goes well. There is talent but no education and opportunities in such areas and we plan to change those dynamics soon. It all starts with a dream and I can see this dream coming true. By the grace of Allah (SWT), we have grown so much in the past two years, with 5 batches graduated, 1 in the process and 1 about to start, Insha’Allah we will do more and see more successful and diverse batches go out and spread light in the world.
Hum rahein na rahein, yeh karwaan chalta rahay
You can connect with Munira Zehra using her email below: