THE WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE – STRONG WOMEN OF PAKISTAN SERIES BY Hijabi.Pk
Our beloved Pakistan owes its freedom equally to the struggles, help, and guidance of its remarkable women. From the mother-of-the-nation, Madar-e-Millat Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah to the Iron lady Begum Rana Liaquat Ali, all contributed to their capacity and helped the leadership to carve the way to an independent nation, today we call Pakistan. It was because of them that women were encouraged, motivated, and inspired to work together. Begum Rana Liaquat started the All Pakistan Women Association (APWA), right after the independence, to help the female refugees from Pakistan and to empower them and facilitate them in earning independently.
Pakistan has always been at the forefront of producing women leaders in every sphere of life, be it the first female prime minister of the Islamic world, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Dr Fahmida Mirza as the first female speaker, Dr Shama Khalid as the Governor GB, Shamshad Akhtar as the Governor of State Bank of Pakistan, and Lt.Gen Nigar Johar, the first lady to hold 3-stars on her uniform.
Continuing the legacy of the great women at leadership positions enters, Humaira Farooqui, from the new generation of educated, tech-savvy, globally connected but locally committed entrepreneurs. She is the CEO of Hijabi.pk, a modest lifestyle brand of cultural and religious attire, available anywhere on just a click. She is a strong believer on empowering women, and has been using her outreach to support and strengthen the empowered women of our society, by inviting and sharing their remarkable stories with help of the digital world, which, like a ripple effect, impacts our society in various ways. To some, it’s like a moral aid, nourishment for young minds, motivation for those hesitant, and an overall solidarity with all women in society.
One of the story of this series ‘woman of substance’ featured; Alisha Jameel, a teenage female rickshaw driver who stood against the societal norms to provide for her family after the tragic death of her father. Alisha narrated that she is the youngest daughter of all the six sisters and it all started when her father (late) was very sick. He bought her a rickshaw, trusting her, even without his presence, that she would be strong enough to be the only bread winner of the family. It has always been her wish to drive a vehicle, to own her vehicle and make use of it. Her father taught her to drive and now she has a rickshaw for her daily livelihood to support herself and her family.
“It has not been easy. It was entirely a new experience in her life.” She quotes; “Although I only take passengers who are near my own area, I still meet new people every day. A lot of people are surprised to look at a girl in the rickshaw driver’s seat. Sometimes they ask whether I can actually handle the rickshaw or not. Some people can’t seem to understand my necessity to do what I am now doing as a proper profession. They tell me to choose a better career, or any other better means of income, but it’s not so easy to actually do that. Everyone makes the most of what their resources allow, and mine happens to be a rickshaw. On the other hand, many people are happy to see me doing something very good yet uncommon in our society. They encourage my reasons, and often say beautiful duas for me, which always makes my day. The daily chaos of the city with its fluctuating weather, is always an uplifting mood on days when the passengers appreciate me for basically being ‘the son of family’ to my own.”
She added further that aside from the passengers, the police and the government have been very understanding. They respect her work when they come across her on the streets. With the snippets of her story going viral on the internet, the government announced a house for her, for which she felt very blessed. She never thought that her hard work to support her family would bear its fruits so quickly. She is currently in contact with them, hoping for the best.
Alisha shares that her aim is to be capable enough to support her family. She believes that depending on others is not an option for her and she will work hard because currently she is the only one who can take care of her younger sister and her aged mother. Just because of the lack of a male figure in our house doesn’t mean she will be helpless.