Pakistan has some of the most resilient women, working day and night in their capacities to make big differences to lives of people around them. Working in diverse sectors from agriculture to health to technology, Pakistani women are making their mark in national and international front and contributing to Pakistan’s development. As part of International Women’s Day, we look at 5 inspirational Pakistani women who have taken small steps towards ensuring a better future for others around them.
Rukhsana Izhar- Owner Rukh Foundation, Philanthropist and Epitome of Compassion
Rukhsana Izhar, from Johar Town Lahore, opened her house to the needy 35 years ago.
Come rain or shine, or the fears of COVID, Rukhsana’s door is never shut. Hygienic and freshly cooked food is available 24/7 for everyone who wants it.
When she moved to Lahore after her marriage, Rukhsana adjusted in the new environment by doing social work. She started with eight to ten people every day, now the footprint has reached at almost 1000 people.
Other than caring for the famished, Rukhsana took upon herself to educate the children in katchi abadis surrounding her house. When students increased in number, she started teaching them in her own garage.
Today Rukh Foundation runs trust schools and distributes healthy groceries to the needy. It even does micro-financing and manages committees for those who are almost never included in these cycles. Many have been able to marry their children, build their houses and afford medical treatments.
Rukhsana Izhar believes her motto is to serve God’s creation and she can be seen doing so in the best possible manner.
Rumela Hameed: An Earthquake Survivor Who Now Empowers Other Differently Abled People
Had the 2005 earthquake not happened, Romela’s identity would have not existed. After losing her legs to a spine injury, Romela Hameed, decided to give a new meaning to her life and many others like her.
As soon as she regained her health, all Romela wanted to do was to continue her education. Now, along with her sister, she runs SMT, which provides online Self-Management training and learning programs for persons with physical disabilities to improve their standards of living.
Ranging from various exercises, to dressing oneself- Romela helps these people learn marketable skills.
So far, more than 1000 differently abled people have shaped their future with Romela’s aid. As an agent, Romela even assists in job placement of people who are otherwise perceived as a burden to the society.
Romela is indeed a ray of hope for thousand such individuals.
Razia Sultana- A Garment Factory Owner Who Once Stitched Footballs For A Living
Meet Razia Sultana who has only studied till primary school but now owns a garment factory in Sialkot. From stitching footballs to making sports uniforms, she has given jobs to hundreds of women as workers.
Razia Sultana faced a difficult childhood due to poverty, things didn’t change for her even after her marriage as she had to work hard to raise her family. After decades of struggle, she is now a successful business woman, helping other women to obtain a better future.
Her son doesn’t recall seeing his mother asleep in the night for years. Initially, Razia Sultana used to stitch footballs and working gloves. She used to earn Rs. 100- 150 per week. But Razia’s aspirations for her children were much bigger.
When she heard of an online course, specializing in international orders, she bought a mobile phone on installments and made her son complete the training. Razia’s life started to change for the better that day onwards. From 35 uniforms to 300, number of orders kept increasing. Then she registered her own company and now owns a uniform factory in Sambhrial.
Today they earn at least $ 85,000/year.
Sarah Gill- Pakistan’s First Transgender Doctor, A Human Rights Activist & Social worker
After years of struggles, Sarah Gill broke the stereotype of her identity and became the first trans doctor of Pakistan.
Death of a friend from blood cancer had a profound impact on her and became the reason for her choice. She recalled her friend’s last words: “If there were doctors in the transgender community, I might have been open to sharing my problem with them more conveniently.”
Breaking stereotypes was not easy. Sarah had to identify herself as a boy during school years. She had to leave her family and home at the age of 14 only after her father disowned her.
In the years to come, she had to face the harsh reality and challenges faced by many transgenders in the country. She recalls being excessively bullied and harassed in school, but she did not want to give up education. She could not hide her identity but would sit in a corner and avoid contact with people.
Dr Gill, who is in her 20s, attended PAF school and Bahria college for intermediate before completing her MBBS from Jinnah Medical and Dental College in Karachi.
Sarah wants to bring change in her community and plans to study abroad and then return to serve her country.
Erum Baloch- A Girl Who Changed The Whole City- owner of Stars Women Hockey Academy Jacobabad
Meet Erum Baloch who founded the first women’s sports academy of the Larkana Division and trains female players to play on national and international grounds.
Erum is a hockey player and lives in Jacobabad, a remote rural area of Sindh. Erum had been playing hockey since the age of 9. Her father died when she was a minor and in 2015 her only brother lost his life in bomb blast. Erum had to fend for her family and hope of becoming a professional hockey player was shattered.
But she started to dream even bigger. Most girls in the region would either get married or were not allowed to play. Other than lack of equipment, many parents were not comfortable letting their daughters play in front of male coaches. Erum promised herself to create an environment where the dreams of other girls could come true.
In 2017, when she was only 23, she established the Stars Women Hockey Academy Jacobabad. The club she and her friends founded from their own savings was the first such academy for women in the region.
In the beginning, it was not easy. People threatened them and created hurdles for them. The girls struggled to find a pitch, but eventually were permitted to play at a sports ground of a girl’s college.
Now a lot parents support the decision, players even travel to Lahore. One of her trainee has joined Pakistan Army’s women hockey team.
Other than hockey training, the girls are taught English and Urdu so their language skills can be improved.
Erum Baloch today now trains almost 28 girls, who represent her academy throughout the country