Top 20 Women who #ChooseToChallege in Pakistan
International women’s day gives us a chance to appreciate and shed light on the wonder women of this world who make this world worth a while. When we sit to pen down the female role models, to pay tribute to them, the list just keeps going. To embrace the glory of womanhood we have highlighted few names among many from Pakistan who have been doing wonders and are real women of power
Roshaneh Zafar is an entrepreneur and development specialist who has been working to empower women for many years. After being associated with the World Bank, she established her own specialized microfinance organization in Pakistan, known as the Kashf Foundation. She is one of the very first fellows of ASHOKA which is an international organization that promotes social entrepreneurship. Through Kashf Foundation, she has been trying to provide new opportunities to the poor women in rural areas to alleviate poverty by providing affordable financial and non-financial services to low-income households. For her services in the field of development and women empowerment, she has been awarded the Tamgha-eImtiaz, one of Pakistan’s highest civilian awards.
Her story is unfortunate but very common, born in a patriarchal society where the voice of women is not considered, she was married at the age of 13 in Swat Valley. As a child bride she suffered a lot of trauma and abuse but finally decided to take divorce only to find herself homeless and without any support. From that point onwards she not only turned her own life around but also aimed to make lives of such women easier especially in the Pashtun society. She broke all stereotypes when she established the first ever Jirgah which was being run by women instead of men. Due to constant injustice towards women in Pashtun society, she felt this Jirgah has become a necessity. Due to her constant efforts, the grand male Jirgah also invited her to attend sessions which is a huge milestone in history. She has won a U.S. State Department International Women of Courage Award in 2015 and Nelson Mandela Award in 2016.
Samina is Pakistan’s high-altitude mountaineer who climbed Mount Everest in 2013 and all Seven Summits by 2014. She is the first Pakistani woman to climb Everest and the Seven Summits. She is also the first ever Muslim women to climb the Everest and that too at a very early age of 21. This achievement is itself enough to break all records and conventional beliefs and claims which revolve around women, that they are fragile and cannot challenge men. Samina is also the first to climb peak Chashkin Sar (above 6,000 meters) in Pakistan, which was later renamed as Samina Peak. She has set a strong example that women not only can challenge and change the traditional setting of the world in an intellectual manner but also by physical means. She was also appointed as the National Goodwill Ambassador for Pakistan by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
She is a Pakistani Shooter who became the first ever woman to represent Pakistan in the shooting category in the Olympics at only 21 years of age. In a country like ours, this title is itself enough to shed a light on her achievement. She trained from Pakistan Navy Shooting Range and won many tournaments across the globe to bring laurels to the country. The Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid has developed a short documentary about her, named as Dream Big Pakistan.
While the idea and name of a woman taxi driver still sounds very strange to us, Zahida Kazmi already crushed through the barrier ages ago. In the 90s when her husband passed away, she bought a yellow cab to run her household and raise her children and became the first ever female cab driver in Pakistan. She is a true example of women empowerment. In our male oriented society, the yellow cab association picked her as their chairperson. She has set the perfect example that when a woman is challenged under hard times, she can change and excel under pressure.
In a country male oriented society like Pakistan, where women are seen and restricted as a person who should only stay indoors and run a household; Twinkle came out as an inspiration to many young girls. She is a weight lifter and the very first Pakistani woman to bring a gold medal for the country. She is only 19 years old who first started her career as a cyclist and later discovered her talent by the help of her coach. Twinkle along with her sister bagged 8 gold medals for Pakistan at the Oceania Pacific Powerlifting Championship, which was held in Singapore in 2017. She is a Pakistani Christian and despite being a part of minority, she is all set to bring more laurels to the state.
Rafia Qaseem Baig
When we talk about the security and defending our society, our minds automatically think of a male who could possibly be the savior. In between this thinking exists a very powerful woman who broke the stereotype and was 1 in 31 male police officers who got selected for an elementary course named the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). EOD is responsible for handling and defusing explosives. Not only she joined the police force but also is a part of the most sensitive and tactical arm. She is an inspiration to many women all across the country who intend to take up the challenge to change our norms.
So many of the girls around our country might secretly wish to become a pilot and fly in the air but the moment you say it out loud in front of people, you get to hear statements like, “girls cannot do this”. As heartbreaking as this sounds, Hina Tahir is a ray of hope to many. She not only is an ordinary pilot but Pakistan’s first female fighter pilot. She flew the mighty F-7 fighter pilot which was her dream and aim. In our country where it is so hard for a woman to drive a car, she is flying high on that jet, setting a perfect example on how to bring a much needed change.
While most of our community has been busy degrading and defining roles of women, a person decided to make an impact, take up the challenge and aimed to change the current situation of inequality in Pakistan. That person is the world renowned journalist, filmmaker and activist Sharmeen Obaid. She has covered the controversial topics like Pakistan’s Taliban generation in short films or documentaries. While the industry is full of male producers and directors, she did not only make a name for herself in the country but also around the globe. The best part about her work is uplifting the degraded women and she aims to bring that change where women will be treated as an equal entity as males. She is not only an Academy award winner, but the government also honoured Hilal-i-Imtiaz.
Back in the days when women were much more oppressed than they are today, this lady crossed and crushed all the bars. Famously known as the mother of the nation, she not only had a strong political presence but also a dental surgeon. She was one of the pillars in founding Pakistan and after creation co-founded the Pakistan Women’s Association which played an integral role in the settlement of the women migrants in the newly formed country. She realized the kind of change we need in our newly born country, she knew how women can play an integral part in the development of Pakistan for the years to come. She made every effort she could, took all the challenges to bring a change and Pakistan itself is a major example of the change she was a part of. She really is a role model for every girl in the country.
The Iron Lady of Pakistan who needs no introduction is a wheelchair bound activist, artist and a motivational speaker. She met an accident that caused major injuries to her entire body and the spine. She sustained and survived the fatal accident and came out as a strong woman who was ready to conquer the world on her wheels. She is an example for every young girl, especially those who are differently abled, if she can do it, if she can move mountains then other girls can do it too. She has been active in making efforts towards the ending gender-based discrimination, This women’s day we celebrate Muniba for being Pakistan’s Iron Lady who has done TED Talks to inspire people and bagged the honor of being the first Pakistani UN Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women.
When we talk about cricket, the only names we can recall are those of men. In a country like ours, which does not have enough sports budget or proper training places for the women who want to play cricket and take it as a career, Sana Mir is a beam of light in the pit. She broke the conventional barrier where it is said that women cannot play sport, let alone cricket. She dropped out of her engineering degree and chose the road to become one of the most celebrated cricketers in Pakistan’s history of women cricket. She became the first Pakistani women cricketer to rank number 1 in ICC ODI bowler ranking and currently ranks 1st in the Women’s ODI Bowlers in the ICC Player Rankings. Had she not accepted the challenge, she would not have been able to give a boost to Pakistani women cricket team.
Ever heard of a female riding a motorcycle in Pakistan? No right? In a society where a woman is expected to make gol rotis, Zenith has been setting the bar or crushing the previously set taboos that women cannot do what men can. She is the first Pakistani female motorcyclist to ride all across the country. Her father who died very young had this dream of riding through the world on his motorcycle so that dream became Zenith’s mission in life. Her story is so unique that a biopic named as, “The Motorcycle girl” has also been made so that it reaches masses. She is a role model for the girls who have been taught that they cannot chase their dreams.
While the society has been passing degrading comments on women who drove cars, Ayesha was aiming high to fly fighter jets, a dream which was near to impossible. In our country, there are hardly any institutes who will promote females in flying planes. Ayesha is Pakistan’s first fighter jet pilot and she flew above all the set labels and taboos which restricted women from excelling in this field. She took on to this challenge and changed the narrative that women cannot fly planes in Pakistan. Not only that, she beat many male colleagues and qualified for combat and to fly sorties along the border. She is a source of pride for the entire nation.
Born in Haripur district in KPK, where it was very uncommon for women to participate in any kind of sport, Sabia had a passion for cycling. Even the perception or demeaning comments from people did not stop her from becoming the first woman from Hazara to win the National Cycling Championship in 2013. Even in metropolitan cities a woman cycling on the road might seem odd to many but this girl from a small town rose above all obstacles to achieve what she aimed for. She has been a sport enthusiast and chose to make a career out of it. Sabia holds a Bachelor’s degree in physical education, is a National Champion, an army athlete.
A survivor who needs no introduction is a power block who emerged as a ray of hope for many girls who sustained and survived assault. She beat the odds and rose against the violence. The journey from her village to being a humans right activist has been most challenging but she broke the barriers and decided to uplift whose in need. Such women who take up the challenges, strive for better are exactly what we need for a changed world. For her efforts in empowering and uplifting women, she has been many awards like Fatima Jinnah gold medal for bravery and courage, North-South Prize from the Council of Europe for her contribution to human rights and honorary doctorate degree from Laurentian University of Canada to name a few.
Extreme situations call for extreme measures! Yasmeen is a living example of how a women can do anything she has to for survival. None of us ever heard of a female fruit seller ever right? But this super lady, turned this into reality. A widow by fate, Yasmeen is determined to provide a good life to her kids. When no job was paying her enough to make the ends meet, she decided to setup her own fruit stall which a women in a society like ours can never be thought of doing. She is an inspiration to so many women and could be the first building block of many to build a better and changed world.
The pride of the entire nation, daughter of Pakistan and the first fighter pilot who died in the line of duty needs no introduction at all. From an early age, she chose to take the road to take up challenges, change the norms and defy all odds. She took part in the national women football championship, was an engineering graduate and later joined the Pakistan Air Force- all which is often expected from a male in our society. he was awarded the Tamgha-e-Basalat by the Government of Pakistan.
The hardest obstacles that one may have to cross through in our country are surely the gender based obstacles. Here we are talking about a woman, who broke a stereotype which no one would even think about. She is the first ever female TRUCK driver in the history of Pakistan. Yes you read it right! This single mother is unstoppable to earn a livelihood for her family. Defying the odds, she is a licensed driver for truck, tractors and trailers. While we still are skeptical about women driving cars, she is the first women in Pakistan who holds this license. She drove against the wind and broke the social norms set for the women in our society.
This famous ACCA-Topper needs no introduction. Famous all over the social media, Zara is such a source of pride and inspiration for the entire country. in our country where the overall literacy rate is so low and female education is rarely promoted, Zara proved that the money and time invested on a female’s education can never get wasted. Zara has made a world record of topping among five lac and twenty seven thousand students of 179 countries doing ACCA and has aced the ACCA’s Financial Reporting Program (FRP) so far.
Since many years, women has been looked down upon and have been linked to a particular image of fragility only. We often label women as weak, frangible or off lesser strength than men but over time, when challenged under extreme circumstances, women have proved them selves again and again. This year, the international women’s day is all bout celebrating women who not only chose the challenge but actually did make an impact for a better future. It is time that the world realizes that a woman is nothing but a power block.