The Power of Empathy – TEDxIslamabad supported by ICRC

This October, TEDxIslamabad (independently organized by TED Talks) held a virtual event supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The talks focused on the power of empathy and compassion and how these two tools that are inherent to humankind (except where clinically absent), could help pave the way for building a fulfilling life for people.

In 2019, we had collaborated with TEDxIslamabad to curate a Salon Event on the topic "Celebrating heroes of life". The event saw the participation of medical professionals and practitioners of psychological well-being, journalists, artists and athletes. Building on the success of the last event, we continued this partnership into 2020.

With restrictions on public events owing to COVID-19, the event was adapted to the new landscape of communications praxis. A soundproof room, a small A/V recording crew and the speaker, figuratively at centre stage. That is all you need for ideas to spread. Since their publication on Youtube, the videos have amassed over 1.5 million views!

According to Rimsha Qureshi, former head of communications with the ICRC in Pakistan:

The decision to go digital arose from the necessity to maintain social distancing in the face of the pandemic while still being able to support local voices, champions and local ideas that can further support the ICRC's networking and partnerships in Pakistan. At the same time, as the focus of the delegation remains on strengthening and supporting local agility, the event was another step in this strategic direction.

The panel of speakers took on issues of core human experiences and shared their relationship with these experiences – Aymen Abdullah's musings were on being an aspiring self-taught musician in the age of dial-up internet, sans YouTube tutorials and online classes.

Shahnaz Minallah's story was of recovery from a nervous breakdown and finding herself in the acts that manifest joy and happiness. An unapologetic proclamation of pride in her identity as a woman with a disability, Abia Akram shared about her continuous journey of rejecting perceptual extremes attached to either or both of her identity facets.

By sharing their lives and experiences with us, these women allowed cause for introspection in the audience. An audience that was entirely engaged through online forums, in observation of social distancing.

Other speakers also touched upon issues that are both personal and pervasive to the society we live in. Aminah Tirmizi's talk was on treating children with empathy and engaging their emotional and intellectual selves that goes a longer way in ensuring a child's holistic development. She also pointed at the adverse effects of doling out corporal punishment as a means to discipline children.

Aymen Abdullah; Life through my piano:

A self-taught musician from the bygone era of dial-up internet took the TEDxIslamabad stage. She shared her journey as a student of music and performed a mashup of contemporary compositions. From Einaudi to Djawadi, there was a bit of everything in there. You can check the short version on Facebook, or catch the full performance on YouTube.

Abia Akram; I am a woman with disability and I am proud of who I am.

What is it like to be simultaneously feared and revered, just by the virtue of one's abilities being different to what is considered 'normal'? Abia Akram took these challenges head-on from a young age and continues to change perceptions about disability and champions empowerment through inclusion. You can check the short version on Facebook, or catch the full video on YouTube.

Aaminah Tirmizi; Treating children with empathy.

You can check the short version on Facebook, or catch the full video on YouTube.
Empathy will not spoil your child. The importance of treating children with respect.

Ayesha Shujaat; What drives effective leadership? 

"Good leaders create opportunities". Ayesha Shujaat shared insights from her professional journey, starting as an intern at the UN during 9/11. You can catch the short version on Facebook, or watch the full video on YouTube.

Shahnaz Minallah; Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional

Shahnaz Minallah shared her journey of recovery from a nervous breakdown. You can catch the short version on Facebook, or watch the full video on YouTube.

Maria Memon; What 2020 taught me 

You can watch this short video on Facebook, or catch the full version on YouTube.

Daanika Kamal; Are women really more emotional than men?

What expectations around gender performance do to the emotional landscape of an individual. You can catch the short video on Facebook, or watch the full video on YouTube.