An Ode to Wonder Women of Pakistan

Wujood-e-zan Se Hai Tasveer-e-Kainaat Mein Rung”

The colors of the universe are there because of the existence of womankind. – Iqbal

There isn’t a force more powerful on Earth than Almighty and perhaps the force that drives the human race to be kinder, more generous and more docile every day is none other than the woman herself.

Never underestimate the power and strength of women; if after Almighty anyone is capable enough to bring life to Earth from their own bodies, they can manage to nurture nations too.

March 8, unwaveringly marks International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate women, their courage, achievements and success. In Pakistan, women have been the beacon of hope; they enjoy equal rights which other nations still neglect. Benazir Bhutto was the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan, whereas countries like the United States are still reluctant to have a female President.

Here is the list of female pioneers of Pakistan who are beating all odds to stand tall and contribute positively towards shaping Pakistan’s future.

1. Dr. Nergis Mavalvala

Karachi-born quantum astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala is a Professor of Astrophysics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” award, 2010. She is best known for her role in first observational gravitational waves. The Pakistani-American, Professor Mavalvala worked with a team of researchers at the US-based underground detectors Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory to detect the gravitational ripples, the theory which was hypothesized by physicists Elbert Einstein. Dr. Mavalvala remains a prominent name with her extensive work in the field of technology.

2. Samina Baig

The sky is not the limit – Samina Baig is first Pakistani female mountaineer who scaled the world’s highest peak – Mount Everest and the seven summits i.e. the highest peaks in the seven continents. Her sole purpose of this expedition was to encourage women empowerment and gender equality. She has also been awarded the Pride of Performance by the Pakistani government. Baig motivates women to participate in challenging adventures.

Samina Baig and her brother Mirza Ali raise the Pakistani flag on top of Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe.

3. Namira Salim

Pakistan’s first astronaut – Namira Salim is the only Pakistani to be a member of the world’s first commercial space liner, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Salim carries multiple achievements under her name; she is the first female to reach both the North and South poles and the first female to skydive from the highest mountain, Mount Everest during the First Everest Skydives. Namira Salim is also recipient to Pakistan’s highest civil award, Tamgha-e-Imtiaz which was awarded to her by President Asif Ali Zardari in the year 2011.

Namira Salim, Skydiving from above Mount Everest in 2008.

4. Zenith Irfan

The motorcycle girl – Zenith Irfan, 20 years old, is smashing stereotypes whilst steering her wheels towards her solo journey on her motorbike to fulfil her father’s dream of travelling around the world on a motorcycle. A fearless biker, Irfan ventured on a trip to Kashmir. The daredevil who calls herself a ‘free hearted soul’ documented her journey in a personal photo blog which is titled as “Zenith Irfan: 1 Girl 2 Wheels”.

5. Twinkle Sohail

The Lahore-based powerlifter, Twinkle Sohail was the first Pakistani female to be represented in Asian Bench Press Championship held in 2015 in Muscat, Oman. Sohail became the first Pakistani woman to win an international gold medal in the field.

6. Ayesha Farooq

Breaking the glass ceiling – Ayesha Farooq is the first, female, war pilot in Pakistan Air Force (PAF). Living in a country where women are considered as the second sex, Farooq underwent rigorous training and undertook same tests like her fellow male pilots. With a headscarf tucked under her helmet, Ayesha Farooq is a role model for millions of girls.

Picture Courtesy: REUTERS

7. Shazia Parveen

Where women are considered to start little fires everywhere, Shazia Parveen extinguishes it. Darting into a blazing building, Parveen is the first female firefighter in Pakistan. She dreamt of becoming a firefighter whereas other women avoid pursuing such careers because of the inherent dangers. However, the road to her dream was not easy, she undergoes extensive training every single day. Wriggling into patriarchal society, Shazia Parveen thinks women can tackle any job.

Picture Courtesy: VEHARI SUJAG

8. Roshaneh Zafar

The pioneer of microfinance in Pakistan – Roshaneh Zafar provides market-based solutions to the impoverished women of Pakistan. Known for equipping women with financial aid, Roshaneh fights poverty with microfinance, empowering women by providing tools to run their own small businesses. She established the Kashf Foundation in 1996, a non-profit organization, which aids women in low-income communities. Zafar has been awarded the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz because of her extensive work in the field of women empowerment. She believes that investing in women is smart economics.

Picture Courtesy: FARHAN LASHARI – 2013.

These are the tales of some ordinary women who proved to be extraordinary. This Women’s Day, give yourself a pat on the back, you’ve earned it…! Happy Women’s Day!