For the past 5 months, my mother, a housewife, has been after me to get her a job - she wants to feel empowered, wants to contribute, and be in command of her own future. However, in an extremely competitive market with current grads barely getting jobs, there is little space for a mother of two kids without any professional background.

As I contemplated my mother's predicament, I couldn't help but think of a thousand other women who are similarly stranded and are even less empowered. On another note, because of rising commodities and facilities, it is no longer feasible for families to remain single-income dependent regardless of cultural stigmas against working women. Khudmukhtar aims to usher in happier and easier times for women, young and old, where their financial mobility is catered to and respected through creative means.

All these reasons form the ethos and drive for KhudMukhtar's inception, a project that aims to facilitate a working dynamic for the superwomen of today!

How we built it

Initially, we were pragmatic enough to realize the importance of random interviews and feedback from women on all ends of the spectrum, as well as a small percentage of men. We then started developing our design prototype along with the application UI in parallel, using an iterative software engineering approach, encountering all sorts of spontaneous errors that allowed us to strengthen our understanding of the development dynamic.

Flutter was used as the basic framework for developing this application with Dart as the language and Android Studio as our IDE. Adobe XD was used to create our workflow and initial UI designs while Github served as our primary platform for version controlling and collaborative work. Firebase will be used as our primary platform for our backend, storage and, authentication.

What we learned

From our initial drive to solve the consistent mobility problems for women at large, we came to grips with certain interesting problems and dilemmas. Undertaking a survey-approach, we conducted random interviews of women, their guardians, and sometimes multiple family members. Through our interviews, we were able to delineate and demarcate problem areas that we specifically wanted to address in a sustainable and user-friendly manner through our application.

On a personal level, the simplicity of Flutter enabled us as a team to bridge the technical gap very easily and be as creative with the space as we wanted to. We also learned that while React Native and other development tools require libraries to be imported for every other thing which adds to their complexity and time usage, Flutter as a single framework does the job resulting in a faster and easier developmental process. We also increased our understanding on how to optimize application backends to function cross-platform and suitable for mass usage and aside from general development, we were also able to understand enterprising for a public use service app.

Challenges we ran into

Besides general skill gaps to close on, we also had to lay KhudMukhtar's focus heavily towards ensuring a holistically 'safe' platform for women. After failing to find conventional routes, we tried to create a workable system to assist the verification and identification of users, especially sellers. The registration requirement of live CNIC/Identification documents was incorporated in our application to ensure that the profiles represent real people. We plan to do this by further cross-checking the identification documents (National ID or CNIC) with the member profile to verify the accuracy of details through Machine earning techniques. In the future, we look forward towards embracing the challenge of coordinating with NADRA to catalyze and strengthen our application's core databanks and repositories.

When tackling the design and core functional aspect of the project, the app itself, our amateur Flutter skillset, entry-level development understanding, and general vastness of the project proved to be the biggest challenges. We faced many heartbreaks as given the vastness of our application and the time constraint, many features had to be abandoned. The development process was also riddled with Gradle sync and flutter rendering issues resulting in re-building and re-syncing several times while our design prototype was complex and multiple custom widgets had to be created. Furthermore, given our lack of knowledge of Flutter widgets, more appropriate widgets with better functionality were only found after running into errors. For eg. we initially placed a GridView inside a Scroll View on the homepage only to realize, alas! A Sliver Widget would serve the purpose better. None of us had previously worked on models in Flutter which also took up a major chunk of our time while responsiveness was also a major challenge that we had to continuously account for.

What's next for Khud Mukhtar

A logical step in the right direction would be to expand the available services platform after initial marketing and release phases. However, we will more actively look towards strengthening the secureness of our platform to sustain its current ecosystem - through SSL certificate acquisitions, optimized digital payments, expanded and nationally coordinated identification database, and more.

We are also leaning towards strengthening the social factor of the platform. This will ensure that KhudMukhtar does not restrict itself to be a service platform, but organically evolve into a community encompassing women from all ends of the spectrum.

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