With Pembe Al Mazrouei, Chair of Middle East Chapter Cherie Blair Foundation

In this latest series of articles, we are publishing interviews of women who are working as a professional or a student in the technology sector. The objective is to highlight their work and contribution to the industry as well as to the community.

In these interviews, you will find women working in technology to solve real-world problems, to break stereotypes and to create the next big impact on the tech industry. This series of interviews shows that even with the lowest rate of women participation in the labor market in Pakistan, there are still lots of smart women who are creating and using technology to work wonders.

Today, we are featuring Sabin Muzaffar. Read on to know more about her work and get inspired.

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Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your education, and your work.

My journalistic career began some 20 plus years ago. Yes, some might call it prehistoric times – way before we began living in what is now considered our parallel reality – the digital realm. I am a writer (aspiring author), poet, editor and journalist by profession with a Bachelors degree in English and Masters in Political Science. It’s funny to share all of this because I feel that nagging imposter syndrome seeping in…but none of that as I shall continue. After settling in Dubai, UAE, in 2004 I began freelancing for major publications and digital platforms from Gulf News, Khaleej Times, ITP Publishing to BBVA Open Mind, International Women’s Initiative, and more. A major chunk of my freelancing work was interviewing movers and shakers of the corporate world across the Gulf. Almost 80 percent of these C-Suite position holders were men. I was kind of stricken by the lack of women at the top as well as not enough documentation being done on those who actually made it to the top tier. And that is how, in 2014, I founded Ananke – a digital platform initially focusing on celebrating visionary women and later expanding our focus and scope to create conversations about empowerment and inclusion intersectionally.

What are your future plans/aspirations? What impact it will have on the community/society/your team/your project?

Just like many other, I aspire to be remembered as someone who made someone’s life better. I wish and work to make lives better through kindness, enablement, equipping them with tools that have helped me in my professional journey and through whatever knowledge and experience I have gained over the years. Anything I can do to make this world and communities better! I was born privileged and wish that privilege could be put to good use.

There are several projects, we, at Ananke, are cooking up that I am really excited about. There is Ananke’s internship and capacity building program – Empower that will be announced this very month. We’ve mentored and trained more than 70 girls over the last 4+ years. It has been an amazing experience for all involved especially because the workshops our allies including Womenintechpk, PWiC, Connected Women Pakistan, The Gender Security Project, etc – have facilitated.

Apart from our flagship events, Women in Literature Festival and The Girl Summit, I am planning a Girls in Tech event as well. Our experience organizing such events show us the huge impact in terms of capacity building inclusively, creating conversations (oftentimes neglected) in a safe and healthy digital environment. There are a few other things we are planning so we’ll see where it goes.

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Please brag about your career accomplishments, what are the things you are really proud of?

It’s been quite an amazing journey – a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment. And the fruits have been plentiful. I would start with the learning – how much I have learned along the way. There is such joy and contentment that one seldom finds in anything else, well at least that’s how it has been for me.

The different feathers in my proverbial cap include being selected as a UN Women’s Empower Women Global Champion in 2015, then going on to becoming their Mentor the very next year. I was also selected as a Cherie Blair Foundation mentor in 2017. My work as an advocate for women’s economic empowerment has been lauded and appreciate beyond borders and internationally – being featured in the Moroccan Times, eShe magazine, The Female Quotient, and many more. Individually as well as representing Ananke, I have collaborated with national and international organizations from The Jane Goodall Institute, The Fred Hollows Foundation, UN Women’s Empower Women, IBM, The Gender Security Project, Seagull Books, Readomania, Zubaan Books, Equals in Tech, GSMA, W4, Womenintechpk, PWiC, Connected Women Pakistan, and so many more.

I have had the honor of being a speaker at leading universities in the world including Cambridge University and London School of Economics where I spoke about Human Trafficking in the digital age and Integrating AI in small newsrooms respectively.

I am proud to the point of narcissism to say that I have had the privilege of mentoring more than 70 girls from all over the world – many of whom are leading amazing lives and are changemakers themselves. Under my leadership, Ananke has launched two highly successful and much loved events: The Girl Summit and Women in Literature Festival, hailed across the world for its content, intersectional inclusivity, and range of themes.

What has been your best education/career decision and why?

Launching Ananke single-handedly, ignoring naysayers and doing my thing. This experience has reinforced my belief in going with my gut instincts.

What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?

To never stop learning, respecting oneself and others especially those who are different from you, staying grounded – constantly reminding yourself the importance and value of being humble. And that change is constant so again… keep on learning and innovating.

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Which woman inspires you and why?

All women inspire me – the homemaker, the caregiver, the teacher, the cook, the cleaner, the survivor, the idealist, the professional and of course the leader.

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?

It’s a bitter pill to swallow but that change has been superficial, if there is any. Not until we go deep and uproot the cause, change and impact will be superficial and short term respectively. Importing progressive ideas is great but merely copy pasting those ideas won’t cut it. This is why – I believe – even the best intentioned fail. One has make those ideas their own… change needs to happen organically. Conversations are important not reactions but I do understand that I speak from a place of privilege and there is much more that needs to be said and done.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

I think challenges have always been the same – access to opportunity, education and healthcare as well as recognizing the right to live with dignity, full bodily and financial autonomy.

If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?

It just needs to be more inclusive.

How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?

Continue doing the good work that it is doing.

You can follow Sabin Muzaffar using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.

Web: www.anankemag.com

Youtube: Sabin Muzaffar

Facebook: www.facebook.com/anankemag

Twitter: @Anankemag , @Critoe

Instagram: @Anankemag

Special Edition @ISSUU: https://issuu.com/anankemag

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