Khudkaar, now known as xWave, started when Wardah Noor, 23, visited far-flung areas of district Layyah during a ration drive in the lockdown period. She observed how laborers were distraught while their economic conditions worsened day by day. That urged her to start something sustainable in case such circumstances arise again and “people have something to eat at home.” She decided to take a gap year from her university and work on the idea for a couple of months.
She was enrolled in B.A. LLB from LUMS at the time. The first half of Wardah’s gap year was consumed in traveling across Pakistan including KP and Sindh, visiting different institutes in Karachi, and residing in Islamabad for some time to see what is happening in other cities. That’s when she learned that skills training and development is something that might result into sustainability. In the second half, she started crowdfunding; her friends who were running other social ventures donated laptops, furniture, books and, “that’s how we started in Layyah.”
“During crowdfunding, we asked people that a minimum of Rs100 and a maximum of whatever they can pledge for a year. We used to meet our monthly expenditures, and for furniture, different people donated different things,” she said. She started the venture in a room at her home where they initially made a computer lab and, in another section, women were taught stitching.
She was able to secure The Spark Fund- Global Fund for Children through which they managed the finances for next year. Till now they are crowdfunding and simultaneously applying for grants. Recently they have started enrolling wealthy students who pay a certain amount of fee which helps in covering a small part of expenditure. She believes that this venture has given a direction to her life.
“This has given me a purpose which gives me satisfaction too. I have the energy to get up every morning and work on this idea. I initiated another startup during my gap year. I prepared a curriculum for overseas Pakistanis to give them Urdu tuition and I taught people the Urdu language because it is not their first language,” she added.
She explains that this helped her in saving money, but it distracted her from her focus. She eventually took a decision at the start of this year, ending the Urdu tuition startup and giving all her energies to enhance xWave. The salary she has started drawing from xWave after a donor’s funding is 5 times less than what she was earning from her Urdu startup, but this gives her satisfaction, and she is determined to live and die for the cause. What gives her energy, and an adrenaline rush is knowing the success stories of her students and fellows.
Shazia Gull, a 23-year-old young woman, hailing from Layyah couldn’t continue her studies due to personal reasons. She used to stay at home and got to know about this center through her cousin. She secured admission there and started learning illustration and 2D animation. She had no source of earnings prior to this.
She says, “I am working on multiple projects, I have a full-time job at xWave, and earning a good amount of money. I am instructing about teaching-related courses at Coursera to enhance my skills and earn more.”
Another student of xWave, Muhammad Zain Abbas, also a resident of Layyah, got to know about this institute through his college teacher. He joined last year to learn video editing. “I made my account on Fiver a year ago and I have earned 150 dollars so far. I bought a decently working mobile phone as it was important for my work and I am hopeful that I will earn around 5000 dollars per month in the future,” he said.
According to data released by the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication (MoITT), 2022 saw a growth of 2.74% as the remittance inflows stood at $397.328 Million as compared to 396.243 Million in 2021. There were around 3 Million freelancers in Pakistan in 2022, as per the report released by MoITT, which have possibly increased in 2023.
Pakistani freelancers earn an average of $20 per hour, and the majority of freelancers in Pakistan are under the age of 30. The most popular payment gateway for freelancers in Pakistan is Payoneer.
The global freelance industry is valued at $3.5 Billion, and the Pakistan industry accounts for 9% of the global market.
According to data released by Payoneer and Upwork, women make up 47% of the freelance market in Pakistan, which is more than the 35% global average.
40% of freelancers in Pakistan are from Punjab, 29.5% from Sindh, 14.7% from KPK, 10.5% from Balochistan, and 5.3% from Azad Kashmir.
Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, and Rawalpindi collectively account for 88% of Pakistan’s freelancing industry.
Wardah Noor is an inspiration for young Pakistanis, and she advises others to dream big.
“Keep struggling, you have unlimited opportunities and endless avenues to learn from. Don’t look for shortcuts to be rich overnight; learn as many skills as you can consistently. You can achieve anything in your life,” she says.