The morning of the Tedx Lahore event was a Sunday that I looked forward to. I always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself; something that would make ideas take flight. So what exactly comes to our mind when we talk about ideas and technology moving forward together for the betterment of our global society?
What is Ted and Tedx?
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. It is a non-profit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 30 years ago, TED has grown to support its mission with multiple initiatives. The two annual TED Conferences invite the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes or less. Many of these talks are then made available, free, at TED.com. TED speakers include Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Daniel Kahneman.
The “x” from TEDx stands for a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussions and connections. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program while the events are self-organized.
The day of TedxLahore: ‘Moving Forward’
After the immense success of TEDx Lahore 2016 and TEDxLahoreWomen last year, this year curated by and licensed to Irteza Ubaid, TEDx Lahore 2017 brought together a diverse group of seven speakers who spoke on subjects ranging from healthcare, education, tourism, transgender activism, music and much more in an engaging storytelling art in front of a massive audience. The event took place at Beaconhouse School System’s Liberty branch on the 22nd of October, 2017. It was attended by over three hundred TEDx enthusiasts from Lahore and beyond.
TEDx Lahore 2017 kicked off with their theme ‘Moving Forward’ with a few words by Irteza Ubaid:
“We wanted to adopt a progressive, forward-looking theme for TEDx Lahore 2017 because right now, at this moment in time, Pakistan is at a very important juncture,” stated Irteza Ubaid, “There is so much happening in the country right now and so many things that need our attention, therefore, with our theme, ‘moving forward,’ we wanted to discuss subjects and ideas that were pertinent to Pakistan, currently. And with our seven speakers and change-makers, we hoped to urge people to be more proactive to make our society and communities a better and more wholesome space to live in.”
My experience as a Ted-participant & member of ProperGaanda
As soon as I walked through the gates of the venue, I could feel the energy and buzz around one idea: to learn, unlearn and relearn. People from all backgrounds gathered around to take something from the event. There were stalls and activities for the attendees around from different entrepreneurs to encourage interactivity. Startups and businesses like, “Craft Stories”, “Enigma”, “Todds’ Welfare Society,”,”QanoonX- Empowering Law Startups”and “Advoguette” were present.
Encouraging Urdu Poetry
Just before I made my way through the crowd towards the auditorium, there was a stall that caught my eye. Representatives of Kashmir Oil Company were seen making Jalebis of an Urdu Poet Amir Khushro’s verses. It was an activity to showcase our rich culture and the Urdu language’s literature with Khushro’s famous poetic verses printed on a page with a delicious Jalebi to eat and read along.
The seven selected speakers at TedxLahore
From Kamran Lashari (the Director General of the Walled City of Lahore Authority – WCLA), Nadia Naviwala (a Wilson Centre Global Fellow and an independent American writer and researcher), Dr. Noreen Zafar (a well-known healthcare specialist in Pakistan), Usama Khilji (a rights activist, writer, and researcher), Zohaib Kazi (the musician behind Patari’s popular ‘Fanoos’ music series and former General Manager and Associate Producer for Coke Studio Pakistan.), Jannat Ali (a transgender rights activist and Katahk performer) and Yusra Amjad (a poet, writer and stand-up comedian), with their diverse stories and insights, they opened the house for TedxLahore: Moving Forward.
Sessions & speakers- Important Insights
“The issue with Pakistan is that elites are either immigrating or they THINK they are immigrating so they don’t have a stake in what happens in the country. This country does not have a crisis of children out of school. We have a crisis of children in schools who are learning nothing. This is why kids drop out & parents think schooling isn’t worth the hassle.”- Nadia Naviwala
Listening to Nadia Naviwala, a grim photo was painted in the minds of the audience. However, that is the reality of the education sector. She is a Wilson Centre Global Fellow and an independent American writer and researcher based in Islamabad. She investigates and writes about foreign aid, local philanthropy, civil society, and education in Pakistan.
“The plan was simple: record artists from rural areas and instead of bringing them to my studio, making their space – a studio, where the song will be recorded.”- Zohaib Kazi
Zohaib Kazi shifted the mood to something lighter- musically. He highlighted the role of archiving our culture, music, and heritage. His diverse body of work includes creating music, producing digital series and authoring a graphic novel, ‘Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher’, the immensely successful digital series for Patari, ‘Fanoos’ and is a former General Manager and Associate Producer for Coke Studio Pakistan.
Talking about his hit collaboration digital series for Patari, “Fanoos”, he made a demo for the audience on how live music is created through technology and how much traveling was involved, to bring out original Pakistani voices across millennials.
“You see, throughout my life, there are two things that I have believed in unflinchingly, the power of literature and the power of young women.” – Yusra Amjad
Watching my friend from A’ levels Literature class, Yusra Amjad, was a proud moment. She is a poet, writer and stand-up comedian from Lahore. Along with that, she performs with the Auratnaak Lahore troupe and has been published in Crossed Genres, The Rising Phoenix Press, Mongrel Books, The Missing Slate and others. She believes in cultivating creative communities, in spoken word poetry, and in using both the written word and performing arts to subvert social hierarchies.
“Citizens must be equipped to hold the government accountable, otherwise the state machinery can thrive on our ignorance to abuse its power” – Usama Khilji
Usama Khilji gave a powerful talk on reclaiming knowledge on our fundamental rights and Right to Information. He is rights activist, writer, and researcher based in Islamabad. He was a 2016 Chevening scholar at the London School of Economics and Political Science where he pursued an MSc in Comparative Politics, and is currently the Director of Bolo Bhi, a policy, advocacy, and research organisation focusing on speech and privacy rights on the internet and civic education, and Advisor to the London-based Refugee Rights Data Project.
“My dream is to become the highest educated trans woman in Pakistan so I can help others in my community to do the same. I have trained 400 students about gender activism. I’m the first Pakistani Muslim transgender woman who has done that”-Jannat Ali
It felt like change was already on its way when Jannat Ali embraced the stage and began a talk. She is a well-known transgender activist, performing artist and DIC Coordinator at the Khawaja Sira Society (a community-building organization) led by the transgender community for healthcare, human rights and advocacy in Pakistan. She was the first transgender Project Manager in Pakistan.
Dr. Noureen Zafar
“Women have to take a stand for other women to open up about their problems. We as a society need to develop empathy, and condition ourselves to believe that women health rights are BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS. Health care should not be a luxury, affordable by a few.” – Dr. Noreen Zafar
Dr. Noreen Zafar is a well-known healthcare specialist who has been working in Pakistan since 1999, offering high-quality gynaecological care and empowering Pakistani women to become emancipated and independent decision-makers regarding their health. Her talk was about beginning conversations on taboo topics for women and to speak to people about health care without gender preference.
“Pakistan has always been a destination for eco-tourism, with our intervention we are changing it to Mohalla tourism.” – Kamran Lashari
Tourism in Pakistan is slowly catching up to attract our own citizens as well as foreigners to visit, bringing the street culture back. Kamran Lashari is the Director General of the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) where he has been heavily involved in numerous conservation projects over the years that have gone a long way in the restoration of art and culture in the vibrant city of Lahore. Some of his most well-known conservation projects – in collaboration with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture – include the Wazir Khan Mosque, the Shahi Hammam, and the walled city of Lahore (as a whole), to name a few. Lashari also introduced street tourism to Lahore’s Old City, tourist rides via the popular ‘Rangeela Rickshaws’ and trained a number of walled city residents as tour guides.
I went home that day with a hope that somewhere, changemakers and key influencers from our global society are engaging in ideas, stories, insights, and conversations- that need to be shared, talked about and spread- to change the mindsets. To prevail hope in the darkest of times and circumstances.