Men and women are born to complement each other. To support each other. And that’s the purpose of their presence in this world. A country prospers only if and when both are allowed to depict their talent and contribute something to the society to make it a better place to live in. It’s ridiculous to suppress one or other. No country can shine until its women are not as successful as its men or vice versa.
At the time of the independence of Pakistan, Quaid -e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of the nation, talked about the importance of the role of women and their empowerment for the betterment of Pakistan on several occasions. And his sister, Fatima Jinnah, became the role model for his words.
Since then, the women of Pakistan are striving hard to overcome all the hurdles in becoming successful to make an identity of their own. Many have succeeded, and became internationally recognized, often award-winning. But there a few unsung heroes of Pakistan who would deserve the worldwide recognition, too.
Here are 8 Pakistani women you and the world should know about:
Shamama played a pivotal role in bringing business women of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa under one platform, and in the creation of the Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Peshawar (WCCIP). Today, she is the Director of Euro Industries, a food-processing business in Peshawar, a city that still lies strong obstacles in front of women. She holds posts on board and committees of several high-ranking organizations, such as FATA-DA, ASF, SEALA. But the reason she became a leader to watch is thanks to her never-ending passion to help and empower women. As she says “women’s empowerment goes hand in hand with economic growth for all.” She holds an MA in Public Administration and apart from managing two additional enterprises, the Balahisar restaurant and The Coffee Pot Bistro, she also co-founded a readers club. All that Shamama achieved was a breakthrough in Pakistan’s history.
Suniya Sadullah is the first Pakistani Formula 1 engineer woman. She has a Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Sheffield where she was awarded the Pakistan Scholarship as well as the General Electric Foundation UK Scholarship. Also, she has an MSc in Motorsport Engineering and Management from Cranfield University (UK). Having achieved her dream of working for a Formula 1 Williams team – and probably being the only Pakistani to achieve this – , she is now actively pursuing her next big dream: a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. Who says engineering is not for women?
Laraib is the nation’s miracle. Daughter of the acclaimed musician, Attaullah Khan Esakhelvi, she is already making a name as Pakistan’s not only youngest but also only woman visual effects artist (VFX) in Hollywood. Despite her provocatively young age – she is only 28 – she has done wonders in such prominent movies as the X-men, Godzilla, Gravity, the Chronicles of Narnia, 10,000B.C, Prince of Persia, Sweeney Todd, and the list just goes on. She started to draw international recognition back in 2006 as an advertisement designer, once again, for names as George Michael, Rolling Stones, and Disney and since then her creativity sees no boundaries. Her passion and dedication don’t seize to amaze us, and we can’t wait to see what she bring us next. Today, she is employed by the Imasblue and Glassworks Barcelona. But Laraib is not only empowering due to her success but also because she is a role-model in showing that women can stand their ground in a male-dominated industry.
Ayesha Farooq is breaking the glass ceiling. The only 26-year-old Pakistani girl became the country’s first front line fighter, which means she is the first ever war-ready female fighter pilot of Pakistan. Having completed her last test, now, Ayesha is ready to fly on missions with the F7-PG jet along with 24 male colleagues in Squadron 20. Her journey shifted the mindsets in a country, where women often pressed to keep a low-profile. Today, over 4,000 women work at the Pakistan Air Force. However, most of them receive administrative or medical duties. Thus, Ayesha became a role model for young girls, and as she often says, she is treated no differently as any of her male colleagues. She has certainly opened the doors for thousands of girls and a once so tabooed position today is something absolutely acceptable.
Mehal Gul, this 15-years-old, Pakistani girl, breaks all records as soon as she gets to the chess table. At age 12, it took her only 45 seconds to arrange chess keys using one hand and with this, she’s set a new Guinness world record. Playing chess since age 6, Mehal has big dreams and as her father and coach says “she is the youngest person to have qualified for the Olympiad from Pakistan.” In a country, where women chess players are rare, and tournaments for women are just kicking off, Mehal becomes an emblematic figure for the whole Pakistani game industry for women and becomes a girl to look up to among her peers country-wide.
Saba Gul is a Pakistan-born entrepreneur, who, as she says, “was troubled, time and again, by the vast social disparities prevalent in Pakistan.” This was her motive to leave her engineering career and shift towards entrepreneurship. Saba founded the company Popinjay, formerly known as Bliss, that helps the girls of Pakistan who are forced to choose work over education. Ever since then Saba has talked at Universities and gave inspiration TED talks about women empowerment and the need to find business solutions to poverty. Her business today is a successful fashion company, which was rebranded as Popinjay in 2013. The word, Popinjay, translates as a parrot, and it resembles her mission to be the voice of women. Popinjay is not only a company producing unique, handmade fashion accessories but also an ethical fashion label. Her aim is to make sure that each product she sells brings a change in a woman’s life. Thus, she also secures that her employees are given a solid salary and continuous practical training that grant them the opportunity to have an independent life with dignity.
Rosheen Khan, Pakistan’s first female scuba diver, made her name known nationally and internationally by crossing the limits beyond the sea. As a woman coming from poor backgrounds, she fought to acquire an education. And though she had to give up pursuing her first dream as being a pilot, she persisted on her second one and became a scuba diver. As the face of positive Pakistan, Rosheen symbolises the hope for many girls and women showing them the empowering message that there is a way to go about their dreams. Today, she is the only Nitrox diver instructor in Pakistan; who is also a proud keeper of her spot in “Diving Book of Records” given for her outstanding accomplishments. Seeing her determination, she is certainly on her way to add more breakthroughs to the history of the women of Pakistan.
To list the 18-year-old Noorena Shams‘ accomplishment to this day is close a difficult trial. She is not only a young athlete with exceptional achievements but also a national debating champion, a multiple-time recipient of Gul Jee Arts Awards and a nine-times-winner delegate at the Model United Nations. But back to her sports life: Noorena is a proud holder of 62 gold, 24 silver and five bronze medals, and she was the youngest cyclist who ever attended the Olympics. But if this would not be enough, she was a spin bowler with the highest number of wickets in the U-19 national team. Quitting cricket, today, she a U-17 Squash Player. And even for such a talent, as Noorena, obstacles do come by. Her dream to attend at the Asian Squash Federation’s Hong Kong Juniors Open was at stake due to the high participation fee. And this is where the actor-singer Ali Zafar comes to the picture. He offered to help and sponsored Noorena to the tournament. By now, she has returned from Hong Kong and as she told us: “I made it till quarter final and for me it was a fantastic experience”.