International Women's Day: Growing Presence of Pakistani Women in Science and Technology

It is International Women's Day on March 8, and its theme is "DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality". It's a day to highlight Pakistani women's participation in science and technology. Nearly half a million Pakistani women are currently enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses at universities, accounting for nearly 46% of all STEM students in higher education institutions in the country. Several Pakistani women are leading the country's tech Startup ecosystem. Others occupy significant positions at world's top research labs, tech firms, universities and other science institutions. They are great role models who are inspiring young Pakistani women to pursue careers in science and technology. 

Clockwise From Top Left: Nergis Mavalvala, Maria Abrar, Maheen Adamson, Tasneem Zehra Husain, Sundas Khalid, Asifa Akhtar

Pakistani Women in Science: 

Growing numbers of Pakistani working women are making a contribution to science and technology. Some of the highest profile names include Dr. Nargis Mavalvala and Dr. Asifa Akhtar. Mavalvala is the dean of Harvard University's School of Science and Akhtar is a vice president of the prestigious Max Planck Society in Germany. Dr. Maheen Adamson is a senior research scientist at Stanford School of Medicine. Tasneem Zahra Husain is a theoretical physicist in Cambridge Massachusetts known for her work on string theory. Hibah Rahmani is a rocket engineer at NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration).  Dr. Sania Nishtar is a former commissioner of the World Health Organization and she served as special assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan.  Dr. Syra Madad is an epidemiologist currently serving as the Senior Director of the System-wide Special Pathogens Program in New York City. 

Selected Women-Led Startups in Pakistan in 2022. Source: Katalyst Lab 

Pakistani Women in Technology: 

Maria Abrar is a data scientist at Reality Labs of Meta (Facebook), a research lab in Toronto, Canada. She has been ranked among Canada's top 25 women in artificial intelligence by ReWork, an Artificial Intelligence (Al) and deep learning content producer based in London, United Kingdom. 

Sundas Khalid is a data scientist at Alphabet (Google) in the United States. Forbes magazine has named her a "trailblazer" in its trailblazer series. 

Kalsoom Lakhani, a co-founder and general partner of i2i Ventures, is helping build Pakistani tech startups ecosystem. She and co-founder Misbah Naqvi are passionate advocates for women-led tech startups in the country.  So, too, is Jahan Ara, the head of Katalyst Lab accelerator. 

Several women-led startups have raised venture funds in Pakistan in 2022. These startups offer solutions in Fintech, Edtech, Healthtech, and Logistics, among others! These are led by Tania Aidrus of DBank, Maha Shahzad of Bus Caro, Vladimira Briestenska of Neem, Meenah Tariq of Metric, Saira Siddiqui of MedIQ, Aiman Bashir of Outclass, Anusha Shahid of OkayKer, and Fatimah Zafar of Remoty. 

Male-Female Ratio of University Students in Pakistan. Source: HEC

Pakistani Women Freelancers:

A 2020 global survey conducted by Payoneer, a global payments platform company based in Silicon Valley, showed that Pakistani women freelancers are earning $22 an hour, 10% more than the $20 an hour earned by men. While Pakistani male freelancers earnings are at par with global average, Pakistani female earnings are higher than the global average for freelancers. Digital gig economy is not only helping women earn more than men but it is also reducing barriers to women's labor force participation in the country. The survey also concludes that having a university degree does not help you earn more in the growing gig economy. The survey was conducted in 2015.

Freelancers Hourly Rate by Gender. Source: Payoneer

Male-Female Ratio of University Students in Pakistan: 

Nearly 46% of over 3 million students enrolled in Pakistani universities are female. The proportion of female enrollment has been rising over the last 5 years.  The ratio of female enrollees in STEM education is also about 46% of the student body. 

Over a million students, about a third of total 3 million students (1.4 million women, 1.6 million men) enrolled in Pakistani universities and degree colleges, are currently studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM Education), according to data released by the country's Higher Education Commission (HEC). Of these students, 415,008 are studying natural sciences and mathematics, 276,659 are in information and communication technologies (ICT), 178,260 are in health sciences and 166,457 are in engineering. Pakistan produced 157,102 STEM graduates last year, putting it among the world's top dozen or so countries. About 43,000 of these graduates are in information technology (IT). 

Student Enrollment By Field of Study at Pakistani Higher Education Institutions. Source: HEC

Acceptance Rates in University Admissions: 

Acceptance rate in Pakistani universities and degree colleges was just 13.5% last year. Only 541,043 students were accepted from 4,085,185 students who applied. The country produced 471,306 university graduates in 2020-21. Of these, 157,102 were in STEM fields, including 43,000 graduates in information technology (IT). 

Pakistan Higher Education Admission and Graduation Statistics. Source: HEC

In absolute terms, Pakistan probably ranks among the top dozen or so nations producing university graduates in STEM and IT fields. However, the country lags significantly behind its lower middle income peers in terms of percentage of students enrolled in universities. Only 12% of young people in the 18-25 age group are currently enrolled in higher education institutions. This is about half of the 25% average for South Asia. The data from the Word Bank shows that the higher education enrollment rate was extremely low in Pakistan until 2000 when late President Musharraf decided to significantly boost investment in building universities and hire faculty to rapidly increase access to higher education in the country. 

Tertiary Education Enrollment Rates. Source: World Bank


As Pakistan struggles with multiple serious crises,  there is a growing presence of women in science and technology. These young women and men now studying in the nation's universities and colleges offer hope for its bright future. In fact, the vast majority of Pakistanis, particularly women, feel that they have better lives than their parents did, and they think their children will have even better lives than theirs, according to a Gallup International Poll of 64 countries conducted from August to October last year. The poll asked two questions: 1) Do you feel your life is better, worse or roughly similar to that  of your parents? and 2) Do you think your children will have a better, worse or roughly the same life as you? The answers to these questions reveal that Pakistanis are among the top 5 most positive nations among 64 countries polled by Gallup International. Anecdotal evidence in terms of packed shopping malls and restaurants in Pakistan's major cities confirms it. Such positivity augurs well for Pakistan's prospects of successfully dealing with the current crises. It will drive the nation's recovery. 


Riaz Haq said…
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Careem — a ride-hailing service operating in Pakistan — announced its plan to launch a new women-driven motorbike service, catering exclusively to its female customers.

The company announced that the service will commence in Karachi and make its way to other cities in Pakistan, urging women — who are interested in working as female captains and getting access to flexible income opportunities — to get themselves registered.


Pakistan ready to write new chapter in women's cricket history

tar-studded Amazons and Super Women will go toe to toe in a three-match series on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; Women’s League exhibition matches will start at 2pm and will be followed by HBL PSL 8 games, which will commence at 7pm; tickets for men’s matches will be valid for women’s fixtures also
PCB to utilise matches to celebrate International Women’s Day, create awareness about breast cancer and promote women’s empowerment
Some of the world’s leading sport networks to televise the three-match series live; SNTV to distribute Video News Releases (VNRs)
PCB to also live-stream matches and post-match pressers on its PCB and HBL PSL YouTube Channels; will also provide ball-by-ball scoring on its corporate website, action images and match reports
Video interviews of local and foreign internationals, as well as Marina Iqbal, Sana Mir and Urooj Mumtaz, and other Behind-The-Scenes content is available on the PCB YouTube Channel
Series hashtag is #LevelPlayingField
Riaz Haq said…
National Dialogue on Women in Science - Pakistan

According to UIS data, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. UIS data also show the extent to which these women work in the public, private or academic sectors, as well as their fields of research. But to truly reduce the gender gap, we must go beyond the hard numbers and identify the qualitative factors that deter women from pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Numerous studies have found that women in STEM fields publish less, are paid less for their research and do not progress as far as men in their careers. However, there is very little data at the international or even country level showing the extent of these disparities.

Similar is the case of Pakistan where women and girls are underrepresented in all STEM fields.

Some Facts about Pakistan

Education Pipeline: While more women are enrolling in university, relatively few pursue careers in research. There are many leaks in the pipeline – from stereotypes encountered by girls to the family-caring responsibilities and bias women may face when choosing a career.

- Bachelor’s students: Women 47% - Men 53%
- Doctoral students: Women 36% - Men 64%
- Researcher: Women 34% - Men 66%

Breakdown by Sector: Women researchers tend to work in the academic and government sectors while men dominate the private research sector, which offers better salaries and opportunities for advancement.

- Public Sector: Women 9% - Men 91%
- Academic Institutions: Women 36% - Men 64%

Breakdown by Field: In most countries, women focus on the social sciences and remain under-represented in engineering and technology. To level the playing field, girls must be encouraged to pursue math and science.

- Natural Science: Women 40% - Men 60%
- Engineering and Technology: Women 21% - Men 79%
- Medical Sciences: Women 45% - Men 55%
- Agriculture Sciences: Women 12% - Men 88%
- Social Sciences: Women 36% - Men 64 %
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani women in AI

Pakistani women have been making their mark in the STEM field nationally and internationally. Moreover, they are bridging the gender gap in tech quite rapidly. Aqsa Kausar is a great example of such talented, smart, and hardworking women that have made immense contributions to the field of science. She is the first female Google Developer Expert in Machine Learning in Pakistan.

Aqsa has arranged various workshops in several events, like Google DevFest 2018 and Google Cloud Next Extended 2019; both conducted in Islamabad. Furthermore, she also participated in Google’s Machine Learning Train-The-Trainer session held in Singapore recently.

Aqsa has always believed that the right mentorship can lead people to immense success, and she was fortunate to get connected to mentors at GDE. Currently, as an employee of Red Buffer, a Machine Learning and AI software services company based out of Islamabad, she plans to lead the team and new talent in the right direction.

Read more:
Riaz Haq said…
How artificial intelligence is changing the way girls in Pakistan discuss reproductive health

Saba Khalid writes about creating a chatbot to answer girls’ questions on typically taboo health topics in pakistan.
It all started one day with a backache. I didn’t know where it came from and I didn’t know how I could ease it, but every day it was getting harder and harder for me to breathe. The body has a strange way of communicating what the heart wants. And when you don’t listen to it, the body tries to aggressively wake you up to it.

Looking back, I think what my heart needed was a sense of purpose. All of my life, I had tried to find purpose through love and relationships, travel, high-paying yet mind-numbing jobs, servitude to family and friends. But I hadn’t discovered it yet.

In 2016, I started looking for role models, hoping they would help me on my quest for meaning. That landed me at a tech incubator in Karachi called The Nest i/o, where young women were daring to start their own tech businesses. I spent four months learning from these incredible young female leaders.

During that time, I had been thinking about how progressive topics about women’s empowerment aren’t often discussed in Pakistani society. I wanted to find a way to start those conversations. Inspired by the strength and determination of the women I met at The Nest i/o, I decided to make an animated heroine whose superpower would be the ability to talk about the least discussed topics in our society. I named her Raaji.

My team and I began by creating one-minute animated videos about Raaji on typically taboo topics. Honor, toxic masculinity, child marriages, lack of women’s mobility, sexual harassment and women’s reproductive health, Raaji voiced it all. We thought an animated series with fictional storylines would help us ease into conversations with girls on these subjects.

When we screened our Raaji videos in classrooms all across Sindh, we realized we had opened Pandora’s box. Young girls started to ask questions — hundreds of questions. Some they asked in person, others landed in our social media inboxes while others came from phone calls, texts and emails.
Riaz Haq said…
Engaging women and girls in STEM is fundamental to inclusive growth in MEA
According to the State of Science Index (SOSI), within STEM equity, gender disparity remains an issue


Building an inclusive economic framework is not about being nice or fair. It has a fundamental role to play in catalysing and accelerating national and intra-regional economic growth that is creatively diverse and sustainable. Getting there requires a root-and-branch recalibration of women and girls’ involvement in industries tied up in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).


In Pakistan, only 21 per cent of those working in engineering and technology are women – and they make up only 40 per cent of people working in natural sciences. UNESCO suggests that issues affecting women in STEM in Pakistan include “Gender stereotypes and biases women may face when choosing a career.” Yet Pakistan is brimming with notable female role models breaking the mould in the sciences. Nergis Mavalvala is a Pakistani physicist known for her research in gravitational waves detection.

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, she comes from the kind of ordinary background that most girls could relate to and has spoken about issues of gender roles. “I grew up in a family where the stereotypical gender roles were not really observed.” She also speaks about how people in Pakistan can break down gender roles and stigmas if they wish to do so: “Anybody should be able to do those things. And I am proof of that because I am all of those things.”

A global challenge

Whilst the race is on to engage more women and girls in STEM in places like Pakistan, Africa and Saudi Arabia, the reality is that the challenge is one that all regions face. It remains a global task. According to the State of Science Index (SOSI), within STEM equity, gender disparity remains an issue; more than two thirds (70 per cent) of the survey felt that there are negative consequences to society if the science community fails to attract more women and girls. The overall agreement is that more needs to be done to keep women and girls engaged in STEM education (87 per cent).

It is clear that across the Middle East and Africa region, stereotypes are being dismantled, barriers broken, and glass ceilings shattered. The passion for science across Africa and the Middle East is everywhere to be seen and 87 per cent of people surveyed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agree that science brings hope and makes the future brighter. That is why together – in education and in industry – we are presented a brighter reality powered by a more inclusive economic model with women and girls in STEM.
Riaz Haq said…
Countries by IQ - Average IQ by Country 2023

Bhutan: 87.94 Rank 68 among 199 countries

Sri Lanka: 86.62 Rank 79

Pakistan: 80 Rank 120

India: 76.24 Rank 143

Bangladesh: 74.33 Rank 150


Here are the 10 countries with the highest IQ:

Japan - 106.48
Taiwan - 106.47
Singapore - 105.89
Hong Kong - 105.37
China - 104.1
South Korea - 102.35
Belarus - 101.6
Finland - 101.2
Liechtenstein - 101.07
Germany - 100.74


Intelligence quotient (IQ) is a measure of human intelligence. People who want to have their IQ measured take standardized tests and receive a score that ranks their intelligence level. The higher one's IQ score, the more intelligent that person is considered to be.

IQ and Education: Two Sides of the Same Coin

IQ scores typically reflect the quality of education and resources available to people in their local geographic region. Areas of the world with lower IQ scores are typically poorer and less developed, particularly in the area of education, compared to countries with higher IQ scores. Many researchers also use IQ to determine the smartest countries in the world. The IQ map above shades each country depending on how high the average IQ score is. A darker shade of violet indicates a lower IQ score. Conversely, countries with a higher average IQ score appear red-orange in color.
Riaz Haq said…
Richard Lynn: A controversial author with racist takes on South Asian intelligence

Areas of the world inhabited by people with lower IQ scores are typically poorer and less developed, particularly in the area of education, compared to countries with higher IQ scores, according to a report titled "Average IQ by Country 2022", co-authored by Richard Lynn.

According to the report, which was published by the World Population Review, the top 10 countries with the highest average IQ include mostly white and Southeast Asian nations.

The views exhibited through Richard's works have often been critiqued as "eugenicist" and frankly, "racist".

His "unapologetic" yet blatant show of sexism and white supremacy even cost him the emeritus title as psychology professor at Ulster University back in 2018.

Richard Lynn is notoriously infamous as an English psychologist and author who believes that nations with high average IQs must subjugate or eliminate lower-IQ groups in order to preserve their dominance.

His "Average IQ by Country 2022" report lists Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong (China), China, South Korea, Belarus, Finland, Liechtenstein, Netherlands and Germany as the top 10 countries with the highest average IQ.

On the other hand, he has ranked Southeast Asian nations lowest in this very list, implicating a pejorative discrimination between the Southern and South Eastern ethnicities.

The report named Nepal as "the worst intelligent nation" among 199 countries with an IQ score of 42.99.

According to the study, Bangladesh ranked 150th on the global list with an average IQ of 74.33 points.

India stood at the 143rd position in the list with a score of 76.74. Pakistan ranked 120th with a score of 80. Sri Lanka stood at the 79th position with a score of 86.62.

Afghanistan stood at 103rd place with a score of 82.12. Bhutan with an average score of 87.94 stood at 68th place. Myanmar stood at 52th position with a score of 91.18.

However, the World Population Review, on which the study was published leaves a footnote reading, "It bears mentioning that Lynn's studies, while comprehensive, tend to spark considerable debate.

"Some researchers dispute the techniques Lynn employs to calculate estimates when hard data is lacking.

"Others claim Lynn, an unabashed eugenicist, misinterprets his data to support conclusions that are both scientifically inaccurate and supportive of white supremacy."

Riaz Haq said…
Sarah Qureshi - The Environmentalist Aerospace Engineer From Pakistan

In today’s world, aviation is a seriously big deal! Whether it is taking millions of passangers from one place to another for relaxing vacations, wonderful sightseeings and important business trips or bringing products from far away right to your doorstep, air transport is the most convenient and effective way to move people and cargo as fast as possible through extremely long distances.
Aside from the commercial side of travel which consists of transporting civilians and all kinds of goods all around the world, aviation has a central place in military as well. Not only that but also there are hobbyists who pursue aviation in some form as a passion, such as hot-air ballooning, aerobatics and aerial photography.

But just like anything in life, there is a price to be paid for all the comfort and convenience that the aviation industry provides us and along with the advantages that it brings, the impact of air transport on the environment is undeniable. Because aircraft engines use fossil fuels to work, they emit carbon dioxide and in turn, reduce air quality at the local level and contribute to global climate change.
World Health Organization considers global warming the biggest threat to global health in the 21st century and due to the serious impact of air transport on the climate we need more environment-friendly aircraft engines with less carbon dioxide emissions.
There is no need to worry, though. Just like the countless innovators and scientists in the history of air travel that came up with ingenious ways to overcome intricate problems, there are many visionaries today that are seeking to find solutions to the most recent problems we face in aviation such as this one.
Riaz Haq said…
DigitAll: What happens when women of Pakistan get access to digital and tech tools? A lot!
by Javeria Masood – Head of Solutions Mapping, UNDP Pakistan

We recently visited South Punjab to explore the digital landscape through ethnographic research. The three aspects we intended to explore were:

Mobile phone and internet penetration through a cultural and behavioural lens: what limits and facilitates women with better access and how does this impact their lives?
Decision-making and available opportunities: what are possible economic avenues available to women once access is provided and how do they leverage these?
Impact and influence of digital tools at a community level: what differences emerge because of access to digital tools made available to women vs being limited to men and how does that contribute at the community level?
We covered 11 areas of the underdeveloped South Punjab area, also known as the Siraiki Belt. We explored three districts: Rajhanpur, Muzafargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan. The listening was done through consultation sessions, community visits and bilateral interviews.

Here are some key insights from the field:

1. Women think at a community level and prompt behaviour change
Samina, from Muzafarghar, is taking training to start a livestock business. She wants to become an example of economic empowerment and plans to include other women and young girls in her livestock business.

‘People taunt me that I have no one to take care of me and my three daughters are a liability. I want to educate and empower them. I am working toward making a world where all girls are as accepted, empowered and enabled as the boys of my area’.

2. Women understand climate vulnerabilities, are more responsible in the management of resources and are strong in face of adversities
Recent floods have left a devastating and lasting impact in South Punjab. It has damaged houses, fields, and livestock at a magnitude greater than in previous years. Samina shared her story with us. The initial weather warning did not convey the scale of the threat and thus did not encourage people to move. Once the flood was underway, she used her husband’s phone to raise awareness for herself and other households in the neighbourhood.

‘We stock dry food and frugally consume it throughout the year. In addition to the loss of our crops on the field, if our stored food was also damaged due to the floods, we would have died of hunger. I made my neighbours aware in time and we moved our food and resources at different heights and directions numerous times to avoid the flood water. Access to information helped me in making informed decisions.’

3. Access impacts behaviour and reduces gender inequality
Shumaila Ashraf (UC Sikhaniwala) took a course for ladies' parlour services in 2015 to economically empower herself but wasn't successful. In 2022, digital literacy enabled her to learn new techniques and meet the demands of her clients. Her business is now flourishing. She is seen as an example to follow for self-improvement and the economic upscaling of a household.

‘I didn’t know how to use a mobile phone very well. Once I learnt, it was a struggle to get access to it as the men in my family did not let me. My husband now shares his phone with me; he sees the value it brings. I am used to using the internet now, and watch videos to build and capitalize my skills. I will be able to save enough money so we can send our daughter to schools as well.’
We also met numerous women skilled in crafts that all have the potential to become businesses. Limited finances force people to make unfair choices and prioritize their sons over daughters. The systemic injustice toward women requires multifactorial solutions and access is proving to be a strong factor.
Riaz Haq said…
DigitAll: What happens when women of Pakistan get access to digital and tech tools? A lot!
by Javeria Masood – Head of Solutions Mapping, UNDP Pakistan

4. Solutions are as good a connector as the communal problem
Take the example of healthcare. During the pandemic, we saw the case of herd immunity. Women in Dera Ghazi Khan are using this approach for other health concerns by self-help. Mujahida Perveen from UC Pega got diagnosed with Thyroid disease. She has found information on YouTube to manage her concerns and is educating others to take their symptoms seriously, get tested and adopt healthy choices.

‘I searched on YouTube about what a thyroid patient should do. I followed the recommended food intake and exercises and see a huge improvement.’

5. Local access does not limit global opportunities
Including women in the workforce has a strategic advantage at both a community and country scale. This perpetuates the flow of money and opportunities. Ayesha Abushakoor from Zawar Wala is a Quran teacher who has students within and outside the country and uses Digital Wallets to receive her fees.

‘My brother informed me that I can use the internet to provide Quran tuition to children. Now I have students here as well as in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.’

6. Future is supportive men
Ramla’s fathers an outlier in the community. He has four daughters whom he plans on educating, so they can get jobs and improve their lives. Unlike other men in the neighbourhood, he believes in equality and does not conform his daughters to discriminatory societal standards. Women in his family have access to mobile phones and the internet for recreation and education. His eldest daughter, Ramla, is in grade four and is passionate about studying.

‘My father has promised me that he will support me in getting a Master’s degree. During Covid-19, I took pictures of the syllabus made by my teacher and studied it on my father’s phone. He also makes the best biryani (Pakistan’s favourite rice dish)!’

What happens when the society stops putting barriers on women and provides them with access to technology and digital tools? They thrive.

They educate, empower, and enable themselves to empower others. All the women, who shared their stories, had one thing in common. They all thought of financial empowerment as a mechanism to upscale not just themselves, and their immediate families but the whole community. Their thinking and conversations are about long-term societal change.

Innovation and technology do not have a gender and it should not be gender biased in availability. We need to develop infrastructure, policies, and a climate toward an equitable digital future for all.
Riaz Haq said…
Navigating the ecosystem: stories of Pakistani women in tech
APRIL 26, 2022

Since 2019, UNDP Pakistan has been partnering with CIRCLE to support the annual She-Loves-Tech competition in Pakistan. She-Loves-Tech is the world’s largest start-up competition for women and technology. The platform seeks out and accelerates the best entrepreneurs and technology and provides them with an ecosystem of support--through funding and a network of global community. Over the last three years, UNDP has supported over 130 women-led tech-startups.

Last year we reached out to few of these entrepreneurs. We wanted to hear their stories, to learn how their start-ups were coping or improvising in the pandemic, and to gather insights what women in tech need in Pakistan. To this end, we travelled and met women entrepreneurs in Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, Karachi, and Quetta. Here’s what we learned.

Being an entrepreneur is a lonely journey

A common feeling shared by all women entrepreneurs was that being an entrepreneur is a lonely journey. Fortunately, spaces like She-Loves-Tech provide women in tech an ecosystem of support, where they meet similar start-ups, have access to mentors, refine their ideas, develop a business case, and address gaps in their knowledge. The ecosystem support increases confidence levels of the entrepreneurs and helps them position their start-up with the relevant audience.

“The ecosystem support was a stepping-stone in becoming confident, and learning how to phrase and share my pitch,” shared Areeba Zehra from Live Natural.
Areeba also emphasized the importance of long-term mentorship, especially with mentors who are willing to work on the idea into the expansion phase. Her start-up Live Natural is an e-commerce marketplace for anyone looking for all natural and organic products.

Policy support can make the ecosystem conducive

Waste is an issue that is ignored by everyone. Trash It is a social enterprise that is working on minimizing waste, recycling organic waste in Karachi. Since 2019 they have made compost from 300,000 kgs of organic waste. Close to 500 Kgs of waste is composted at their facility daily.

Anusha Fatima, who leads the start-up shares that they are only working in their capacity to manage waste, and there need to be more enterprises out there working on this issue. For that to happen, the waste management ecosystem needs a proper infrastructure where waste is collected in segregated form. A policy shift can also lead to a behavior shift and encourage citizens to participate and segregate waste at the source.

Social-enterprises pivoted their approach in COVID-19

As the pandemic started, many social enterprises digitized their work and shifted operations on the Cloud. But for few, the pandemic presented an opportunity to start new enterprises. Zartaj Ahmed, who originally participated in She-Loves-Tech from PSSEC’s platform, segued it into another start-up QriosityNet.

“Ed-tech was not the focus of investors. It had to make business sense. And the pandemic made it easy,” said Zartaj
During the pandemic, their team surveyed and learnt two things—education was being impacted, especially for students who were planning to start their undergraduate degree, and that GENZ is comfortable with technology. The new start-up is focusing on STEM education with a blended learning model and a self-paced approach.
Riaz Haq said…
Navigating the ecosystem: stories of Pakistani women in tech
APRIL 26, 2022

Believe in your ideas

It was inspiring that all the women entrepreneur we met exuberated passion and perseverance.

“Let the world tell you that you can’t do it. If you feel it’s right, you might be the first one doing it”, said Aruj Khaliq.
One start-up lead Eesha tur Razia Babar highlighted that women entrepreneur have great ideas, but they often don’t participate in tech conferences and competitions.

“You need to put your ideas out there, and take part in conferences and events, to get that exposure,” urged Eesha.
Eesha’s start-up Shama-e-Zindagi (literally means light of life) is working on automating the process of monitoring patients in Intensive Care Units and Critical Care Units of government hospitals to reduce burden on nurses and other medical staff. Their prototype is at a testing stage.

“If you’re starting a business, it will take time and you must be strong. You’re going to face a lot of challenges. People will stay it can’t be done. If you believe in your idea, you’ll learn and grow. Take your failure as a learning journey”, Areeba advised aspiring women entrepreneurs.
Riaz Haq said…
#Indian #Muslims in higher #education: Enrollment of Muslims in #India fell by 8% in 2019-20, while that of #Dalits, #Adivasis & #OBCs rose by 4.2%, 11.9% & 4% respectively. Upper caste #Hindus saw highest growth rate of 13.6%. #Islamophobia #Casteism

The recently released All India Survey on Higher Education 2020–21 shows some contrasting trends. On the one hand, enrollment of Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs in higher education has increased by 4.2 per cent, 11.9 per cent and 4 per cent respectively compared to 2019-20. The upper castes, whose share in enrollment had been declining with the implementation of Mandal II since the late 2000s but who have come back with the highest growth rate of 13.6 per cent. On the other hand, the enrollment of Muslim students dropped by 8 per cent from 2019-20 – that is, by 1,79,147 students. This level of absolute decline has never happened in the recent past for any group.

UP accounts for 36 per cent of that total decline followed by Jammu and Kashmir, which accounts for 26 per cent, then Maharashtra (8.5 per cent), Tamil Nadu (8.1 per cent), Gujarat (6.1 per cent), Bihar (5.7 per cent) and Karnataka (3.7 per cent). Except in Tamil Nadu, Muslims alone witnessed an absolute decline in their enrollment. While the states that have a larger share of the Muslim population account for the higher share of decline, small states too show similar trends. For instance, between 2019-20 — 2020-21, Delhi lost about 20 per cent of its Muslim students while J&K lost about 36 per cent.


AISHE 2020-21: Enrolment of Muslim students for higher education decreases to 4.6%
The Education Ministry data showed that the number of Muslim students decreased to 19.21 lakh in 2020-21 from 21 lakh in 2019-20.

Professor Sukhdeo Thorat, emeritus professor, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawahar Lal Nehru University and former chairman, University Grants Commission(UGC) said that financially weak Muslims may go for higher studies if they are helped through scholarships.
Speaking on a lecture ‘Where do the Muslims lag behind in higher education?: Lessons for policies’ on the occasion of the 25th Foundation Day of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (Manuu), Thorat said, “There are internal disparities among Muslims in attainment of higher education based on income level, gender and medium of education and institutions like Manuu must give preference to such groups through scholarships, differential fee structure, hostel facility and remedial coaching classes.”
He reiterated that Muslims have the lowest Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) at 16.6% in higher education among all the communities in the country (national average is 26.3%). He also pointed out that Muslim students depend highly on government institutions (54.1%) as compared to other communities (national average 45.2%) and only 18.2% Muslim students go to private aided higher education institutions and 27.4% go to private unaided higher education institutions against a national average of 24.4% and 30.1%, respectively.
Riaz Haq said…
Google and Pakistan collaborate to drive IT education, 45,000 scholarships announced - Global Village Space

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication, Syed Aminul Haq, announced a groundbreaking agreement with Google during the Startups for Industries and IT Exports conference held at the Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI). The agreement entails 45,000 scholarships to be provided by Google, with the aim of increasing the number to 450,000 in the following year. Notably, at least 40 percent of these scholarships will be reserved for women. This initiative marks a significant step forward in promoting IT education and fostering the growth of Pakistan’s digital industry.

Expanding Educational Opportunities
The collaboration between Pakistan and Google sets out to address the pressing need for skilled IT professionals in the country. The allocation of 45,000 scholarships signifies a remarkable increase from the previous year’s 15,000 scholarships. By targeting women, the government aims to bridge the gender gap in the tech industry, empowering more female individuals to pursue careers in IT. This initiative recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion in driving innovation and technological advancements.

Empowering the IT Industry
Minister Aminul Haq emphasised the government’s commitment to the growth of the IT sector by announcing the construction of a dedicated building at NED University, with an investment of $1.6 million. The facility will serve as a hub for gaming and animation, nurturing local talent and further propelling the industry forward. These efforts align with the government’s vision of promoting startups, gaming, and animation within the country, leading to increased employment opportunities and economic growth.

Supporting Startups and Innovation
The conference brought together industry experts, entrepreneurs, and policymakers to discuss the importance of startups and innovation in the IT sector. Senator Abdul Haseeb Khan highlighted the crucial role that research and development play in driving industry growth. He also emphasised that startups today no longer require massive investments, thanks to the conducive environment and government support. With the increase in the number of incubation centres from five to eight in just three years, Pakistan is nurturing a vibrant ecosystem for startups to thrive.

Boosting IT Exports
Deputy Patron of KATI, Zubair Chhaya, lauded the efforts of Minister Aminul Haq, acknowledging the significant growth in Pakistan’s IT exports. From a modest $1 billion in exports, the sector has witnessed a remarkable surge to $2.6 billion at the end of the last financial year. This growth places Pakistan on a promising trajectory, showcasing its potential to compete with neighbouring countries. To further bolster the IT industry, Nighat Awan, the Senior Vice President of KATI, called for the abolishment of duties on machinery and IT-related products, fostering an environment conducive to expansion and innovation.
Riaz Haq said…
Expanding FemTech to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights

Ayesha Amin is a tech and gender activist and social entrepreneur from Pakistan. She is the founder of the youth- and women-led organization Baithak—Challenging Taboos, a Generation Equality Commitment Maker working to expand access to information on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Having experienced first-hand the discriminatory structure of the tech world, Ayesha highlights the urgency of involving young people—and young women in particular—in the decision-making processes that will impact their future: "There is no alternative," she believes.

The taboo around sexual and reproductive health and rights has historically kept many women in the dark about their own bodies. This effectively deprives them of bodily autonomy: “When women don't have access to information,” Ayesha says, “they are not able to make informed decisions about their bodies.” On top of the stigma, mobility restrictions and lack of resources prevent many from accessing crucial health services.

FemTech—a term for tech designed to support women’s health—can help break down existing barriers to information and care. And yet it tends to exclude those who most need it: “Most of the FemTech applications that exist right now benefit women who are from socially and economically privileged groups,” Ayesha explains. For women from rural communities, women who aren’t digitally literate or those without sufficient income to pay for subscription-based apps, even these alternative forms of healthcare remain out of reach.

As we fight to close the gender gap in digital access, “we are leaving women and girls in marginalized communities far, far back,” Ayesha emphasizes. This “gap within the gap” means marginalized women are excluded even from tech touted as accessible. “There's a huge need for investments in solutions that can localize technology and that can make tech models inclusive for girls and women who are in these marginalized communities,” she says.

Tech Support
Enter Baithak’s latest project, Gul, an AI-powered voice assistant that will use WhatsApp to help educate young people on reproductive health issues in local languages. The team gave their voice assistant a common gender-neutral name, with the idea that people “can a have a friend in terms of this voice assistant who they can ask for this information,” says Ayesha.

Gul is part of Baithak’s push to expand its impact through technology. The organization began with in-person sessions held in communities across the region: “The idea was to create safe spaces for women to come together and discuss and learn about issues related to their sexual and reproductive health,” Ayesha explains. But there were many communities they still could not reach.

“We knew that our access was very limited,” she says. “We could not be everywhere. So we wanted to build a system through which women and girls in marginalized communities could get access to quality information very privately.”

The need for virtual resources was underscored by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Women in the various communities start reaching out to us very actively on Whatsapp because we were not able to go there physically,” Ayesha says. The project’s urgency was further emphasized last year, during the floods that devastated large parts of Pakistan.

These kinds of crises aren’t going away. But tech-based solutions can help mitigate the worst of their fallout. “Going forward, the idea is to use this voice assistant for women in climate emergencies,” says Ayesha, “where access to quality information and the ability to make informed decisions around reproductive health become very difficult.”

Riaz Haq said…
US envoy pledges commitment to education initiatives in Pakistan

US DCM Andrew Schofer also met the 24 students and the teachers who will go to the NASA Space Camp this summer through a US government grant to the Dawood Foundation (TDF).

TDF received a $250,000 US Consulate Karachi-funded grant to promote STEM education in low-income and underserved schools. Through this grant, 100 teachers from 50 schools were trained in teaching STEM education and 1,200 students from these schools visited the MagnifiScience Centre to encourage interest in STEM education and careers.

A STEM competition was held among the participating schools, through which students from the top three winning schools will participate in NASA’s Space Camp in the United States this summer.

To emphasise the US government’s commitment to education, DCM Schofer gave remarks at the closing ceremony of the US government-sponsored Karachi English Works! Programme.

English Works! provides bright, economically disadvantaged students with an opportunity to develop English language proficiency and 21st-century employability skills.
Riaz Haq said…
Migration of academics: Economic development does not necessarily lead to brain drain

A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany, developed a database on international migration of academics in order to assess emigration patterns and trends for this key group of innovators. Their paper was published in PNAS on Jan. 18.

As a first step, the team produced a database that contains the number of academics who publish papers regularly, and migration flows and migration rates for all countries that include academics who published papers listed on the bibliographic database Scopus. The migration database was obtained by leveraging metadata of more than 36 million journal articles and reviews published from 1996 to 2021.

"This migration database is a major resource to advance our understanding of the migration of academics," says MPIDR Researcher Ebru Sanliturk. Data Scientist Maciej Danko adds: "While the underlying data are proprietary, our approach generates anonymized aggregate-level datasets that can be shared for noncommercial purposes and that we are making publicly available for scientific research."

MPIDR Researcher Aliakbar Akbaritabar explains how they processed the bibliographic data in order to receive information about the migration patterns of academics: "We used the metadata of the article title, name of the authors and affiliations of almost every article and review published in Scopus since 1996. We followed every single one of the roughly 17 million researchers listed in the bibliographic database through the years and noticed changes in affiliation and, by using that tactic we know how many academics left a given country every year."

The researchers' empirical analysis focused on the relationship between emigration and economic development, indicating that academic setting patterns may differ widely from population-level ones.

Previous literature has shown that, as low-income countries become richer, overall emigration rates initially rise. At a certain point the increase slows down and the trend reverses, with emigration rates declining.

This means that favoring economic development has the counterintuitive effect of initially increasing migration from low- and middle-income countries, rather than decreasing it.

Is this pattern also generally valid for migration of scientists?

Not really.

The researchers found that, when considering academics, the pattern is the opposite: in low- and middle-income countries, emigration rates decrease as the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita increases. Then, starting from around 25,000 US Dollars in GDP, the trend reverses and emigration propensity increases as countries get richer.

MPIDR Director Emilio Zagheni adds, "Academics are a crucial group of innovators whose work has relevant economic effects. We showed that their propensity to emigrate does not immediately increase with economic development—indeed it decreases until a high-income turning point and then increases. This implies that increasing economic development does not necessarily lead to an academic brain drain in low- and middle-income countries."

Unveiling these and related patterns, and addressing big scientific questions with societal implications, was possible only because of painstaking work in preparing this new global database of migration of academics. "We are putting the final touches on an even more comprehensive database, the Scholarly Migration Database, which will be released on its own website soon," says software developer Tom Theile.
Riaz Haq said…
Two Titan submersible passengers were prominent science philanthropists in Pakistan

Two of the passengers who died when the Titansubmersible imploded on its way to explore the wreckage of the Titanic in the North Atlantic belonged to a family that are prominent philanthropic funders of science in Pakistan.

Shahzada Dawood, and his son, Suleman Dawood, were part of the Dawood Foundation, which set up a university, girls’ school and museum, all with major focuses on science.

“The tragic loss of father and son is, first and foremost, a human tragedy and a tragedy for the family,” says environmental scientist Adil Najam, who also studies philanthropic giving in Pakistan. “We have also lost someone with a real, personal and abiding interest in science. It is a tremendous loss of a champion for science.”

“This is a huge tragedy for Pakistan,” adds Atta-ur-Rahman, a chemist at the University of Karachi and a former minister for science. “The [Dawood] family has made enormous contributions to education and science during the last five or six decades.”

The Dawood family’s foundation established the Dawood University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi; the Karachi School of Business and Leadership; the MagnifiScience Centre, Pakistan's first contemporary science museum also in Karachi. Dawood public school provides high quality science education for girls, Najam says.

Members of the Dawood family posted a statement to the foundation website about the deaths of Shahzada and Suleman. “We are truly grateful to all those involved in the rescue operations. The immense love and support we receive continues to help us endure this unimagineable loss.” The statement also said: “At this time, we are unable to receive calls and request that support, condolences and prayers be messaged instead.”

Both Rahman and physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy of the Black Hole Institute, a science and cultural centre in Islamabad, say that the Dawood Foundation is a rare example of much-needed science-philanthropy. Many young people are trying to leave Pakistan because of an economic crisis and a lack of opportunities. Around 800,000 people left in 2022 to seek work abroad. Between 400 and 750 people from Pakistan, as well as Egypt and Syria died last week when a boat capsized off the Mediterranean Sea on its way from Libya to Europe, according to media reports.

The Dawood family foundation has tried to address these problems by creating opportunities for science education. Rahman adds that there is much more that needs to be done. “We need to rethink our national policies, so that we can use this huge pool of talent for our own socio-economic development,” he says.
Riaz Haq said…
Carving a path for Pakistani children to pursue science careers
Lalah Rukh talks about the joys — and challenges — of nurturing young learners’ passion for science subjects.

Lalah Rukh is a science communicator and founder of Science Fuse, a non-governmental organization in Lahore, Pakistan, that is working to promote access to high-quality education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Launched in 2016, Science Fuse designs and delivers informal educational workshops, training and resources that build children’s scientific literacy and passion for STEM. It uses a sliding-cost model to engage with schools that serve children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, including using donations to take free scientific demonstrations to the poorest communities. Rukh speaks about her motivations for founding Science Fuse.

When did you first get interested in science and science engagement?
My interest in science began when I was 12, after reading an article about personalized medicine in a children’s magazine published by a leading newspaper in Pakistan. I was fascinated by this idea, and I cut out the article and pasted it by my bedside so that I could see it every morning when I woke up.

In 2003, I moved back to Norway, where I was born, and studied molecular biology and biotechnology at university. But I realized that I didn’t enjoy doing science in the laboratory as much as I enjoyed engaging people with science. So, I joined Forskerfabrikken, a non-profit organization based in Oslo that encourages children to engage with science. We organized hands-on science programmes for schoolchildren. I worked there for five years as a science communicator, and I learnt about science engagement and social entrepreneurship. I discovered the core features that make for great small-scale school exhibits, and I saw how the organization established revenue streams and structures to expand its team and expertise across Norway. And I realized that science communication is where my passion truly lies.

Where did the idea of Science Fuse come from?
In summer 2013, when I was in Pakistan to get married, I visited a small charity-run school for children living in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Karachi. I did a 3-hour science workshop for the children with fun demonstrations — from creating giant bubbles to making beads that change colour under sunlight, and chemical reactions that make water ‘pop’. There were big smiles on the children’s faces and the experiments sparked their curiosity. It felt more meaningful for me to do this kind of work in Pakistan. Since 2016, Science Fuse has reached more than 45,000 children, trained 650 teachers and nurtured a community of more than 200 science communicators. We have worked closely with about 250 schools and partner organizations to deliver world-class science education across the country.

Why is it important to boost STEM education in Pakistan?
In Pakistan, 44% of children are out of school, one of the highest percentages in the world — and the majority of those who do go to school attend low-income private or government schools. Many low-income families don’t have access to good-quality STEM education.

This is a social-justice issue. STEM skills are important for any job, and children need them to excel. Science allows us to ask questions about life and the Universe. But in Pakistan, many people, especially children, and girls in particular, are discouraged from asking questions at home and in schools because of cultural and religious beliefs. It’s important that we use STEM education to empower children.

Riaz Haq said…
Four key trends - Newspaper - DAWN.COM

By Umair Javed

The cultural indicators are about how people understand the world around them and the degree to which they are engaged with it. The first of these relates to consumption of information, especially among young people, who constitute a majority in the country. For this, we can turn to Table 40 of the last census, which reports that 60 per cent of households rely on TV and 97pc rely on mobile phones for basic information. The corresponding figures in 1998 were 7pc and 0pc respectively.

What this overwhelmingly young population is watching on TV or through their mobiles is something that we can never completely know. But what is clear is that a lot of information is being accessed, and a lot of ideas — about politics, about religious beliefs, and about the rest of the world — are circulating. Controlling or regulating this flow is an impossibility. Will it lead to an angrier population or a more passive one? A more conservative one or one with some transgressive tendencies? So far, the outcome leans more towards anger and conservatism.

Another slow but steady sociocultural transformation is the vanishing gender gap in higher education. Men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 have university degrees at roughly the same rate (about 11pc). Between 20 and 30, a slightly higher percentage of women have a college degree compared to men. And just two decades ago, women’s higher education attainment in the same 20 to 35 age bracket was 3pc lower than men. This gap has been covered and there are strong signs that it will reverse in the other direction as male educational attainment stagnates.

What does a more educated female population mean for societal functioning? Will these capabilities threaten male honour (and patriarchy) in different ways? Will there be new types of gender politics and conflicts? And will the levee finally break in terms of the barriers that continue to prevent women from gaining dignified remunerated work? As in other unequal countries, Pakistani men hold a monopoly over economic benefits and public space. And they are unlikely to give these privileges up passively.

In the socioeconomic domain, there are also two things worth highlighting. The first is urban migration, not just in large metropolitan centres, but in smaller second- and third-tier cities as well. Fragmenting land holdings and climate change are compelling young men in particular to move to cities in large numbers. A 10-acre farm inherited by five brothers will lead to at least three seeking work outside of agriculture.

The official urbanisation rate may be at around 38pc but this is a significant underestimate. Many villages are now small towns, and small towns are now nothing less than large urban agglomerations. The perimeters of these urban areas are dotted with dense informal settlements that provide shelter — often the only type available — for working-class migrants.

Finally, the last trend is employment status in the labour force. In the last 20 years, the percentage of people earning a living through a daily/weekly/monthly wage (as opposed to being a self-cultivator, self-employed, or running a small business) has increased by 10pc. Much of this increase is taking place in the informal economy and that too in the services sector.

Starting your own business, however small, requires money, which most do not have. Getting higher-paying, formal-sector jobs first requires getting credentials and training, which again is beyond the budget of most. Large swathes of the working population will grind out a living by taking care of the needs of the better off — fixing their cars, cleaning their houses, serving them food. Given the condition of the economy, this trend is unlikely to change.
Riaz Haq said…
HEC and Coursera Offer Exclusive Licenses to Pakistani Students

The Higher Education Commission (HEC of Pakistan) has partnered with Coursera to offer free licenses to students. This opportunity is available on a first-come, first-served basis, so interested individuals are encouraged to act quickly. To take advantage of this offer, students can register at the HEC’s e-services portal.

The program is being launched under the Distance Learning and Skill Enhancement Initiative (DLSEI), an initiative by the HEC, which aims to equip students from higher education institutions with updated knowledge by engaging top-ranking universities across the globe.

This initiative provides students with access to online courses and certifications to enhance their skills. This partnership between HEC and Coursera is a great opportunity for students to expand their knowledge and skills.

Coursera is a leading online learning platform that offers courses from top universities and organizations around the world. With a free license, students will have access to a wide range of courses in various subjects.

Popular posts from this blog

Pakistani Women's Growing Particpation in Workforce

Project Azm: Pakistan to Develop 5th Generation Fighter Plane

Pakistan's Saadia Zahidi Leads World Economic Forum's Gender Parity Effort