A young mother finds freedom and a career online | #speakup barometer | Pakistan | DW | 09.04.2019

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#speakup barometer | Pakistan

A young mother finds freedom and a career online

Maria Umar: A business founder who found options to work from home while battling post-partum depression and societal restraints.

Maria Umer, founder of Women's Digital League Pakistan (photo: Qurratulain Zaman/ Maria Umer)

For Maria Umer, digital media mean more than finding her career path - for her, it's a tool to empower other women to realize their potential

Maria Umar is the founder and president of Women's Digital League (WDL) – a social enterprise providing digital training and computer-based work to Pakistani women. WDL is one of only two organizations to officially partner with Facebook in Pakistan. UpWork, the largest marketplace for freelancers, has also partnered with WDL for its Social Impact Project. Umar used the Internet to find work for herself and many other women who can't leave their homes due to traditional mobility restrictions on women in Pakistan. She has been working in the online digital outsourcing sphere for over a decade. 

"If someone had asked me, even in 2007, if the Internet could potentially become a place where I could earn a living, I would probably have been surprised. But then came 2008. Fired from a teaching job for daring to become pregnant, I was in a bad place. And then I had post-partum depression. The fateful moment came when I typed 'work online' into my new best friend, Google, and found out about oDesk, Elance and Freelancer. Since then, I — someone who could not go out shopping without my mother and a male chaperone after 5 p.m.— have travelled to different parts of the world alone, founded an internationally recognised company and won awards for my work. Access to digital information platforms is what made it possible for me to realize my potential, earn a living and be independent. Now I am empowering all my sisters who are looking for better avenues."

The #speakup barometer is a DW Akademie project that examines the connection between digital participation, freedom of expression and access to information. Learn more at www.dw.com/barometer