Sheba with her award

Celebrating hard work and achievement through awards and recognition is always exciting. But when those accolades involve civic innovation and promoting transparency in government, it signals change from the grassroots to the highest levels. It takes a village and a woman of substance to stir up some magic.

Sheba Najmi is the founder of Code for Pakistan (CfP), a civic technology organization. For those unfamiliar with the term, civic technology is about co-creating solutions with the help of the community and government to optimize public services. To simplify, it changes old ways of doing things, replacing them with new digital solutions and making them much more efficient.

When I first met Sheba, her radiant smile immediately stood out. Our introduction came via a Google Meet interview as I was venturing back into the workforce after a break. A fading spark rekindled within me when I read the job description for the role. That coupled with Sheba’s enthusiasm, I knew this would be a fun ride.

You seem eager to contribute positively to Pakistan, and that's exactly what we do.

As I learned more about CfP's work, my impression of the state of affairs in the country changed. Let me elaborate. CfP is all about getting the ball rolling, bringing about government culture change, bridging gaps between government and citizens, and up-skilling people to optimize public service processes. From 'no one does anything in this country,' I was learning and writing about government change makers that I couldn't believe still existed. At home, my dinner table conversations changed. It was such a breath of fresh air.

After six-and-a-half years at Yahoo!, Sheba joined a year-long public service Fellowship Program at Code for America in 2012. Taking a significant pay cut, she witnessed firsthand the impact of technology bridging gaps between government and citizens. Sheba realized the need and the importance of replicating the same success back home.

In 2013, Sheba tested her hypothesis at Karachi's T2F cafe with the mantra, 'Lead with people, not problems.' A call to applications set the stage for Pakistan's first civic hackathon. Curious government officials and ordinary citizens made their way up the spiral staircase at T2F. That weekend, they worked together to hack ideas to find new solutions to the city's old problems.

"There were so many people who came to T2F that day. Doctors, developers, designers, and citizens came together to brainstorm about city-related problems and find tech-based solutions. It was a no-brainer... we needed our own 'Code for Pakistan'".

Today, over 400 government officials have benefited from CfP's work, learning efficient and time-saving ways of working. The fellowship program has empowered hundreds of citizens by up-skilling them and unlocking their full potential. Now in its 8th cycle, this program continues to tackle the challenge of improving government systems from within. Civic Innovation Labs serve as a hotbed for innovative solutions to real-world problems faced by Pakistani citizens. Apps like Raabta and Muhafiz exemplify this —these citizen-centric platforms leverage technology to build trust and transparency in public service interactions.

As Lao Tzu famously said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step"

Eleven years later, Sheba is riding the waves with the same passion and vision to build better and stronger systems. There is infectious energy around every project we take on. Sheba’s dedication has inspired a growing number of citizens to join the civic technology movement in Pakistan. CfP's doors are always open to those who wish to make a difference in their communities and enable change in government.

HUM Awards 2024 - Group Photo

The team at CfP was both humbled and excited when HUM TV invited Sheba to the Women Leaders Awards.

For the past five years, HUM TV has championed women's empowerment through the HUM Women Leader Awards. This prestigious initiative recognizes and celebrates the extraordinary contributions and achievements of iconic women from Pakistan and worldwide.

From Ayesha Jalal to Karen Armstrong, Lieutenant General (R) Nigar Johar, and Malala Yousafzai, to Princess Sarvath Al Hassan, the recipients of this award mirror hard work and substance. They've set the high bar that inspires others to believe anything is possible with hard work and determination.

For all those familiar with CfP's work, watching Sheba walk up to the stage was a moment of immense pride. As she received the honor, the entire CfP team cheered, each member watching from their living rooms. This collective joy stemmed from an intimate understanding of the relentless hard work behind the award.

When digital technologies intersect with civic life, they can impact a small community or an entire nation. It speaks of civic technology's potential as a catalyst for change in government innovation and improving citizen engagement. This award recognizes the change women with a vision and the ability to inspire and lead can make to the social fabric of society. Ultimately, it recognizes the impact CfP is making in Pakistan, rewriting the narrative of citizen engagement, empowering communities, and building a future where more women can get involved with STEM and civic technology.

Inspired by Sheba's story? Watch the awards ceremony and relive the red carpet-highlights!

Feeling the urge to get involved? We want to hear from you! Drop us a line at and become a part of shaping Pakistan's future through the power of civic technology.