The road less travelled: From Ismail Goth to Harvard

Published: May 31, 2013
Fatima attributes her unusual success to -'The Citizens’ Foundation and said that her life changed when she enrolled in their school. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Fatima attributes her unusual success to -'The Citizens’ Foundation and said that her life changed when she enrolled in their school. PHOTO: EXPRESS


“If someone had told me ten years ago, that one day I will be going to Harvard, I would have asked them what Harvard was,” stated 23-year old Anum Fatima in a gentle but poised tone.

Seated amidst endless volumes of books in the library at The Citizens Foundation, a place she calls “her second home”, the young achiever described her current state of mind as that of ‘nervous excitement’.

Hailing from Ismail Goth, a slum near Steel Town, Fatima is currently enrolled in the MBA programme at Institute of Business Management, Karachi and will be attending the summer school at Harvard University at the end of June. The three-month programme, an initiative by the US-Pakistan Women Council will allow her to attend classes at Harvard University and also provide her with internship opportunities.

Fatima stated that her main motivation to apply for the programme was the opportunity to go abroad.

“I had read case studies from Harvard during my college years, but did not realize what a privilege it was to get admitted there until I saw everyone around me reeling with excitement,” she said.

She admitted with a chuckle that even her father, a driver at a private company, did not realise the extent of her achievement until his company owners told him that his daughter was going to attend the same college as Benazir Bhutto.

Fatima attributes her unusual success to The Citizens Foundation and said that her life changed when she enrolled in their school in the ninth grade. Due to limited resources, it would have been impossible for her father to finance the education for Fatima and her four siblings, despite his willingness to see a better future for his children.

However, she emphasised that TCF had not only assisted her academically and financially but also provided a complete support system, extending counseling to parents and providing guidance through personal crises as well.

“Belonging to a family where I am the first girl to complete matriculation, my interaction with TCF alumni and teachers was the first insight into the world of educated people. I immediately knew that I wanted to be like them,” she said.

But the journey was not an easy one. From issues such as finding transport to go to school to adjusting to an English medium curriculum at university, there were several ups-and-downs but Fatima remained undeterred.

Currently, Fatima is gearing up to represent Pakistan and TCF at Harvard, but in the long run she aspires to be a CEO at a multi-national organisation. But before she does that she wants to give back by becoming more involved with TCF in its educational initiatives. It is her way of saying thank you to the organisation that gave her the strength to dream..


Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2013.

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Reader Comments (42)

  • zzz
    May 31, 2013 - 4:56AM

    she studying at IBM and still poor I don’t think so may be middle class…zzz


  • The Khan-Waterloo,Ontario
    May 31, 2013 - 7:09AM

    I wonder when will ET publish this news about a guy from a village in Gilgit getting the opportunity to go to US all because of LUMS.


  • Rayan
    May 31, 2013 - 8:27AM

    Inspirational…..kudos sis…


  • Sadia
    May 31, 2013 - 9:00AM

    Way to go! Initiatives like TCF are what we need in this country.


  • gp65
    May 31, 2013 - 9:11AM

    Kudos to this young lady. HEr achievement truly is exemplary. May her dreams come true.

    @zzz: Did you read the article, The Citizen’s Foundation gave her financial assistance.


  • Zehra
    May 31, 2013 - 9:56AM

    This story is so misleading. It makes it seem like she has been accepted for a graduate or undergraduate programme at Harvard, when it’s just summer school.


  • Someone with a brain
    May 31, 2013 - 10:04AM

    @zzz, she is studying at IoBM on a full scholarship by TCF because she could in no way afford it. She gained admission on merit and then TCF decided to fund her. Please get all your facts right before passing judgments. Thank you.


  • Irshad Khan
    May 31, 2013 - 10:12AM

    Fatima, you are daughter of Karachi. Every body in Karachi should love you and your family. God bless you with all health and wealth.


  • Billu
    May 31, 2013 - 10:13AM

    Anybody can go to Harvard summer school btw..plz show some rea achievements


  • Faisal
    May 31, 2013 - 10:39AM

    This is what real talent can do if provided opportunity! Congrats on this amazing achievement.


  • Kosher Niazi
    May 31, 2013 - 11:26AM

    The one girl from MIT wasn’t enough?


  • Tanveer
    May 31, 2013 - 12:01PM

    Congratulations! and wish her success in the future.


  • taj muhammad khan
    May 31, 2013 - 12:29PM

    As a pakistani citizen we all are proud of you sister keep going on our prayers are always with u …


  • Dinky Mind
    May 31, 2013 - 12:38PM

    @Billu: Did you?


  • Bilal
    May 31, 2013 - 12:43PM

    All praise for TCF


  • arsalan jameel
    May 31, 2013 - 12:53PM

    What is the girls hobbies n how many hours she stuiedies .plz shed light on her schools, frendnz, uni life, ismail goth life. Report only tlks of tcf n praises it, boring


  • Blush
    May 31, 2013 - 12:53PM

    Next summer, I will see your news going to Harvard Summer school.! Congrats in advance, since you are SO SURE!


  • Billu
    May 31, 2013 - 1:49PM

    @Dinky Mind . Harvard summer school will accept you if you will apply. Please go through Harvard website for further details.


  • May 31, 2013 - 1:52PM

    Great Effort Sister. Now anyone can study from Harvard and Massachusetts University its free Register at or . Avail Free Education its your Right.


  • ab
    May 31, 2013 - 2:25PM

    really good luck to her. wish her best of luck in life!!!. she would be a role model for the poor children around her and that’s a very good thing in the long run.


  • Sita White Bhabi
    May 31, 2013 - 2:50PM

    @zzz: Why you try to be the first to comment when you dont know the story in full. Do you know something about The Citizen Foundation and what it has been doing ? Come out of your shell, learn, and then speak. We simply acclaim TCF and congrats to this great lady.


  • Syed A. Mateen
    May 31, 2013 - 3:07PM

    I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.


  • Uza Syed
    May 31, 2013 - 3:50PM

    Great example and role model for millions of other kids. From Ismail Goath to MBA program and onto Harvard is surely a long way and Anum Fatima sure has done herself proud and us all especially her father. Considering all the odds and the loaded dice against her background, she must have put lott of extra efforts, to get to where she has. I wish to congratulate her father, who is a driver by vocation, and her who has so proudly mentioned what her father does. Respects for both of them the daughter and the father. Best wishes.


  • nassi
    May 31, 2013 - 3:51PM

    Even if she is only going to attend a summer school at Harvard, it is an impressive leap for someone coming from a humble background. She sounds like an intelligent girl and deserves the opportunity which is definitely very special and rare for someone in her position.


  • May 31, 2013 - 3:52PM

    At the end keh he dia na~ MULTI-NATIONAL ….
    Aray yaro be PAKI and Work for PAKI.


  • ashar
    May 31, 2013 - 4:43PM

    **Quality education to the less privileged

    So they have proved it. Praise to TCF.


  • Zee
    May 31, 2013 - 5:06PM

    Having been involved with TCF’s Rahbar and Career Counselling programs, I can imagine what a huge accomplishment it is for this girl to even complete her intermediate and then secure admission in IOBM on merit. Harvard then ofcourse is something even bigger. People trying to belittle her accomplishment by saying its just summer school probably don’t even realize that in TCF, the mode of education is in Urdu, there are very few students who are able to study beyond matriculation and girls face huge difficulties studying after completing their 10th grade from TCF because there are no colleges in most of the areas TCF is operating schools in. It’s so easy for some priviledged ones to say ‘anyone can go to Harvard summer school’ without realizing all the hurdles someone overcame to go this far. We are proud of you Anum.


  • Ghulam Raza
    May 31, 2013 - 5:24PM

    Really proud of you sister, you have done a great job.


  • Irtiza
    May 31, 2013 - 6:03PM

    Go get it, ma’am! Hats off to you for the achievement. Efforts like these make us proud of being Pakistanis.


  • Blush
    May 31, 2013 - 6:52PM

    Uh oh, my comment was for smarty pants @Billu. See you next summer at Hrvard Dude. This is a story of a daughter of a driver, who has pushed all boundaries to get educated, people like you just love bringing others down, well for her even an international flight is a big thing. Either appreciate orher’s achievement or go lock yourself in your shiny perfect world.


  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    May 31, 2013 - 7:27PM

    What a heart warming story, My heartly congratulations to Anum Fatima and her parents for achieving such a distinguishing award. Have a great time in Boston, you will love the institution and the people. My advice will be to work hard and be yourself.


  • kanwal
    May 31, 2013 - 7:30PM

    Go girl!


  • Tughral Mirza
    May 31, 2013 - 8:14PM

    Six years ago today when my son had asked me to attend the party at Schulich MBA graduates where he was president of his faculty I was overwhelmed with excitement and now today after learning about Fatima a tireless achiever who has crossed all the bars of excellence I wish her and her parents even bigger success while she is abroad. Remember its just the begining- and the best is yet to come.InshAllah.


  • aq
    May 31, 2013 - 8:21PM

    Is she an Ahmadi as she has done good purdah.


  • gp65
    May 31, 2013 - 9:06PM

    @Billu: “Anybody can go to Harvard summer school btw..plz show some rea achievements “

    Perhaps for anyone who can afford the fees, the flight and living expenses in Boston, that might be a true statement. For this young lady where no one from her family had even become a matriculate, this is a true achievement. If you cannot say a word of encouragement, at least stop being so snooty and condescending.


  • subi
    May 31, 2013 - 9:42PM

    Ahan. Why dont you go then.


  • Alaf laila
    Jun 1, 2013 - 12:36AM

    @zzz: A great previlage for all CBMrs..


  • jack
    Jun 1, 2013 - 1:09AM

    Will they allow her to pray five times and wear the burqa? Thats the issue.


  • samonrusty
    Jun 1, 2013 - 9:15AM

    I lived for over a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a 5 minute walk from the Harvard campus and I never saw a woman there wearing a burka. It is a dress which is seen in the West as a symbol of subjugation of women. If she is going to represent Pakistan, I think it would be better if she changed her wardrobe in a way that was more representative of the emancipated women of our country.

    Cambridge is part of Greater Boston and following the Boston marathon bombings, there has been a spike in Islamophobia in the area; by wearing that dress she could attract, not just a few stares, but possibly verbal insults.


  • Mirza
    Jun 1, 2013 - 10:09AM

    Fatima this is just the beginning and a stepping stone for your career. Once you are at Harvard you can earn new scholarships and positions. Most country is proud of you and your school. I am sure there is a great network of Pakistanis at Harvard and MIT and you would get all the help you need.
    There would be pigmies and jealous people who could not see an ordinary Urdu medium girl going to Harvard on scholarship. It does not get any better than this. Kudos to you and the organizations that are creating students like you. Love you beti.


  • Khan
    Jun 1, 2013 - 11:45AM

    A thousand congratulations to Fatima


  • JSM
    Jun 1, 2013 - 4:13PM



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