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Epiphany Lab

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Islamabad: Social entrepreneurs are increasingly taking center-stage for their innovative approach to tackle issues being faced by their communities and the society at large. Pakistan is no exception to this trend. Social entrepreneurs are increasingly getting attention of key stakeholders including investors, education and skill related institutions as an alternative to the more costly and less efficient development sector organizations. Recognizing the importance of startups in providing innovative solutions, Epiphany, in partnership with Unchartered (previously unreasonable institute) held a 5 day acceleration program for early-stage social entrepreneurs from across the country. These start-ups were selected through a competitive process from amongst a pool of 70.

“We are delighted to have been able to launch this prestigious, time-tested curriculum with Unchartered for the first time in Pakistan. Through our own expertise and that of our mentors and supporters, as well as the global outlook of the program, we believe that our Epiphany Lab entrepreneurs will be able to create extensive social impact in Pakistan,” said Samar Hasan, Co-founder of Epiphany.

The acceleration program organized at the National Incubation Center Islamabad from October 24 to 28, provided the participating entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills necessary for converting their ideas into the intended products/services. The program also introduced the participants to leading voices from within the sector bringing together experts from across Pakistan and abroad in both face to face and online sessions. These experts/mentors not only shared their own experiences of having established similar initiatives, but provided invaluable feedback to individual startups to bring their ideas in line with the international standards.

Epiphany also organized a panel discussion with leading experts, “Social Entrepreneurship Landscape in Pakistan”, including Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Zeenia Masood, Head of Programs – Society, British Council; Sadia Malik, Founder, Inaara Impact Ventures; Noman Azhar, Head of Branchless Banking, JS Bank and Samina Faisal, Founder, ForiFix.

Drawing on the link between social entrepreneurship and women empowerment, Dr Vaqar Ahmad stated: “The public sector needs to support social enterprises (SEs) by giving a legal definition to these entities, providing financial support through provincial development budgets, and fulfilling organizational development needs of potential women entrepreneurs and start-ups through capacity building. The budget also needs to address the case of multiple taxation faced by SEs after the devolution of revenue administration in Pakistan. Likewise, the Federal Board of Revenue will have to consult women-led SEs and devise a tax regime that values social impact. Finally, Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will also need to help women-led SEs through a preferred procurement mechanism.”

“Social entrepreneurs are increasingly leading the cause of social progress in the 21st century. This Lab will equip budding social entrepreneurs with the skill to convert their ideas into practical models of indigenous development,” said Shah Saud Sahibzada, Co-founder/CEO of Epiphany.

With their assistance the start-ups gained a flux of knowledge and had a chance of organizing their ideas for start-ups, before launching in the real world.

Smashing It! Epiphany’s Women Empowerment Initiative

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Importance of Women Empowerment

The people who know me, know how deeply interested I am in women and their empowerment, their courage and resilience, their emotional strength, their intellect and empathy. The ones who know me well understand that I am committed to nurturing their potential and helping them grow, to encourage them to pursue their dreams.

However, we live in a world where women are still objectified and victimized; questioned and criticized; considered second best and held back from succeeding; and ostracized for non-conforming. We reside in a world where internationally, women are still only 39.4 percent of the work force, 8 percent in top executive positions, and 22.8 percent national parliamentarians. In a country like Pakistan, with a population of 200 million people, half of which are women, these numbers are 15.8 percent3 percent (in management positions), and 17 percent respectively.

Inspirational Pakistani Females

Yet, great examples of pioneering leaders exist, such as Shamim Akhtar,the first female truck driver. Then, there are Ayesha Farooq, first combat pilot and Namira Salim, first Pakistani to reach the North and South Poles. There are also several others supporting women’s choices and protecting their rights. For instance, Shaila Abdullah, an award winning author who writes about Pakistani women struggling to find their individualities. Or Fouzia Saeed, social activist and gender specialist who founded the first women’s crisis center in Pakistan. Let me also draw attention to the ones who have firmly placed us on the map of the world. Arfa Kareem, the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional and Malala Yousufzai, youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner. Tehmina Janjua, the first female Foreign Secretary and Tasneem Zehra Husain, Pakistan’s first female string theorist. And of course, Benazir Bhutto, the first female Prime Minister in the entire Muslim world.

One may argue that these women leaders are rarer than diamonds — I beg to differ! It took me more than an hour to select the ones I wanted to mention in this blog post alone. We definitely have talented females in our folds. However, I believe we need to do more to celebrate the women who have made it despite the odds and to share their stories of inspiration with other people, both men and women. Also, some of these women are the icing on the cake — we must highlight the rest of the batter too. Furthermore, we must showcase female role models who are perhaps not famous, but have equally motivational stories to tell. Therefore, we at Epiphany are launching our brand new initiative on women empowerment: Smashing It! A Tribute to Women Pioneers & Leaders.

About Smashing It!

Smashing It! introduces women who have established themselves, are worthy role models and have stories as captivating as anyone’s. They are researchers and writers, teachers and artists, novelists and sportswomen, journalists and technologists. Some are self-employed, some are working professionals, but they all have one thing in in common – their commitment to themselves. They are all women who have risen despite the odds or perhaps, because of them. Most importantly, they have found it in themselves to smash the glass ceiling and are carving new frontiers!

First Smashing It! Talk by Dr. Asma A. Qureshi

I am absolutely delighted to announce that the first talk with Dr. Asma A. Qureshi took place on Thursday, July 6, 2017. Hailing from an ordinary middle class background, with limited financial resources and little focus towards education, Dr. Asma A. Qureshi successfully smashed the glass ceiling by becoming the first PhD in her family from the prestigious University of Queensland, Australia. Recognized for her professional excellence in marketing, she is also a certified Chartered Marketer, a status awarded to extremely experienced and qualified marketing professionals.

Her work experience spans 15 years across 3 continents, and she is currently working as a Doctoral Researcher in consumer decision behavior. Her specialities include market data research, data sciences, data analysis, digital marketing and quantitative marketing. 

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