9 Pakistani women who have taken the road less travelled

Let's celebrate the Pakistani women who have inspired us

Web Desk March 08, 2015

In case you haven't noticed all the 'girl power' posts on your Facebook feed, March 8th is International Women’s Day.

According to the official United Nations website for the holiday, International Women’s Day is:  " …a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women."

Related: 14 Pakistani women who help us hold our heads up high

The Express Tribune takes a look at a few of our very own who have made enormous strides to ensure a more equal future for generations of women to come.


1) Malala Yousafzai


At the tender age of 11, Malala became an international advocate of female education by writing a blog and demanding education for girls in Swat Valley. On October 9, 2012, she paid a heavy price for her efforts with a bullet to the forehead, But unfortunately for the Taliban, Malala survived and bounced back to inspire millions of women across the world. And yeah, she became the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize-winner on December 12, 2014. No big deal (sarcasm intended).


2) Arfa Karim


At the age of just nine, Arfa was recognised as the youngest certified Microsoft Professional. In 2012, the teenage genius suffered an attack on that which had given her recognition and made her a source of inspiration for young and old across the country – her brain.

Arfa passed away at the age of 16 after suffering an epileptic attack. Her untimely death at the tender age of 16 saddened people in Pakistan and abroad, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, but her free spirit and determination continue to inspire girls in Pakistan.


3) Sharmeen Obaid


Pakistani journalist and documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy bagged an Oscar under the ‘Best Documentary, Short Subject’ category in 2012.

Saving Face, a documentary that highlighted the plight of acid attack victims in Pakistan received international recognition when it on the coveted award. Obaid continues to empower Pakistani women.


4) Mukhtaran Mai


The most high profile instance in Pakistan of a violent ruling by a tribal court against a woman is that of the gang rape of Mukhtaran Mai, which took place near Multan in 2002. Mai was allegedly attacked to settle a matter of village honor, as decided by a panchayat. She was then paraded naked through her village.

Unlike most rape victims, who face stark recriminations for speaking out, and who are sometimes even expected to commit suicide, she filed a criminal case against 14 men.

Six men were convicted and sentenced to death that year, but in 2005 the Lahore High Court commuted one sentence to life in prison and acquitted the rest. The Supreme Court upheld that decision in April 2011, in what rights activists said was a crushing blow to women's and minority rights in Pakistan.


5) Ayesha Farooq


It is lonely being the only war-ready female fighter pilot in the Islamic republic of Pakistan.

Farooq, from the historic city of Bahawalpur, is one of 19 women who have become pilots in the Pakistan Air Force over the last decade - there are five other female fighter pilots, but they have yet to take the final tests to qualify for combat.

Farooq, whose slim frame offers a study in contrast with her burly male colleagues, was at loggerheads with her widowed and uneducated mother seven years ago when she said she wanted to join the air force. “In our society most girls don’t even think about doing such things as flying an aircraft,” she said. But here she is, flying away and making her dreams come true.


6)   Maria Toor Pakay


From a village tomboy in the tribal area of Wana, South Waziristan, to becoming Pakistan’s top squash player, Pakay has come a long way. As a child Maria had to dress as a boy to be able to play sports and now as the country’s number one women’s squash player she says there is still too much resistance. Competing at the Asian Games in South Korea, she vowed not to stop helping girls in Pakistan overcome discrimination and cultural obstacles even after receiving threats for her work.


7)  Samina Baig


Mountaineer Samina Baig became the first Pakistani woman to scale Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain with a peak at 8,848 metres. Baig completed the climb to the summit at around 7:30am local time in May 2013 with her brother Mirza Ali, proving there is no height women cannot climb.


8)  Mussarat Misbah


Mussarat Misbah of Depilex salon founded Depilex Smile Again Foundation in Lahore, a beauty salon to help rehabilitate female survivors of acid attacks. The foundation's aim is to provide the women with medical and psychological care and help them gain confidence and employment. Over the last decade, Misbah has helped around 600 acid attack victims.
9)  Benazir Bhutto


Benazir Bhutto will always hold a special place in the hearts of Pakistanis. Leave the politics aside, and read a brilliant excerpt from Bina Shah that encapsulates Benazir's legacy.

" ... Bhutto left behind more than success or scandal. In her wake are the millions of Pakistani girls and women who look at her life, her determination, her perseverance in the face of all odds. They appropriate even the smallest part of these elements of her life and add it to the blueprint they envision for their own. And they thrill to the idea, still radical in Pakistan 40 years after Bhutto began her political career, that gender doesn't have to stop them from achieving their dreams."

Facebook Conversations


A | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend @goggi (Lahore): Give us all a break!
mehr | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend Rightly said @Bilal Akbar.....Benazir was truly incomparable.....should have topped the list.
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