Its time of the year when we share Ponds Miracle Woman with our followers. You all must bewell aware of the fact that Ponds recognize and appreciate the journey of Pakistani Miracle women with its Pond’s Miracle Journey Campaign. These wonderful women have been selected from the field of medicine, business, showbiz, designers and baking.
She is a writer
She is a dreamer
She is Dynamic
The very flamboyant Bina Shah is a writer and a columnist, with a number of books and novels under her belt. She writes op-ed columns for a variety of prestigious international and local newspapers, such as The New York Times, Al Jazeera, Guardian, The Huffington Post and DAWN. “I am very happy and the quintessential single woman. Single women also have their place in Pakistani society which I have spent quite a lot of time proving to people. It is very much the norm for women to get married and have a family from early on. That was never my path. I took the career path. My life is full of value, joy, learning opportunities and positive moments. I have never felt there is anything lacking in my life and I want other women to know that too,” proclaims Bina.
Being a writer is more challenging than most people believe. It is a profession for which one needs solace. Bina’s family gives her the space for creative thinking and when need be, drags her out of the house to allow her to have the positive social interactions that every human being needs for balance and stability. Bina also explains that “A lot of my work is online so I use a lot of social media and blogging and there can be a lot of harassment and negativity coming my way as a woman, as a writer, as someone with a voice and is somewhat of a public figure. That can be difficult to deal with.” However, she has over time learnt how to handle that pressure and believes that negativity is not something to be dissuaded by. “It is important for Pakistani women to be out there in the 21st century and become part of conversations. I feel I have a lot of practice in handling these things coming towards me so I feel pretty good about it now.” She adds.
Bina feels that it is a mere myth that only women depend on men. Men also depend on women hence the relationship between a man and a woman is that of interdependence. None of us is an island and it must be recognized that “we are all interdependent, we support each other, celebrate each other’s diversity, talents and gifts.” However, she is a firm believer of the fact that women must have their own money which they can spend as they please, or save it, without being answerable to anybody. Women make 52% of the Pakistani population and yet are treated as second class citizens. Therefore, much of her writing is focused on feminism, the need to prevent child marriage, domestic violence and laws to protect the rights of women. Bina takes this to be her mission and, through her writing, aims to contribute the much essential social change.
Bina’s inspiration to address the issues facing the women of Pakistan takes root in the general restrictions that a woman faces while growing up in this country which make her feel uncomfortable when she’s young and slowly picks up in intensity as she grows up. “You get told not to flaunt your body, to cover yourself and that you are responsible of the honour of the family. Women are suffocated under these restrictions. Growing up, my mother made me very aware of the injustices towards women. It was a gradual awareness. I went to a women’s college (Wellesley College). There I was made aware of the feminist movement. We are made to think it is anti Islam that it is Western. For me, Islam gives me certain rights as a woman and feminism is the vehicle by which I can fight to achieve them. So, for me, the two things go very well together. I am both a Muslim woman and a feminist.”
As far as her Miracle Moment is concerned, Bina says that she has two – “the day I graduated from Harvard with a Masters in Education and the more recent one is when I got an offer from The New York Times to write a monthly column” she says with tears in her eyes.
To maintain her physical health and keep herself academically charged, Bina ensures a good diet that involves the right fruits, vegetables, water as well as supplements. She also exercises and gets enough sleep. In addition to that, she believes that it is “important to think good thoughts and find a way to stay positive/optimistic – that shows on your skin. I am very particular about cleansing. I never go to sleep with makeup on.”
The Miracle Woman Bina Shah is an example of a person who is perceptive, sensitive and wants to give back to the country in every way possible. She does not plan be disappointed; she plans on dreaming big and winning. With dynamic women like Bina leading the wave of social change, Pakistan is sure to become a more tolerant and progressive society sooner than later.
She is a speech and language therapist
She is a college principal
She is optimism
Amina Siddiqi believes in equality between men and women not only in intellect but also in the perusal of dreams. In her opinion, it translates to men and women complementing each other rather than competing to be the same in every aspect.
She lives that philosophy everyday as she juggles the roles of a being a speech therapist, managing the ‘Ziauddin College of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences’ as principal, and being a mother of three. What keeps her going is the immense support she gets from her family. “I have a wonderful family who support me in everything I do. I have complete freedom of mind to pursue what I want to accomplish”, she says while adding that, “The one major challenge I do face is the lack of awareness about my profession. I have been in this field for twenty five years and though there is vast improvement now, people still need to be educated about speech and language therapy.”
She talks about how, in her field of work, one gets to experience small miracle moments on a regular basis. “There are so many moments in my life where I have dealt with a patient with severe speech impediments and that has made me thank God for who I and where I am.”
She recalls a time she had to choose between motherhood and work. Her pregnancy brought along complications that needed to be addressed and that put a stop to her work life. She does, however, feel that there is an ever present feeling of guilt that she experiences about not giving enough time to her children. But a supporting family and an outlook built on positivity has helped her calibrate her emotions.
Amina urges women to step forward in contribution to society. She ends by asserting “I think women must contribute whenever possible. It is not necessary to earn big or become a big name. It is, however, important to reach self-actualization by using your talents and abilities to their maximum.”
She is a Consultant Neurosurgeon
She is committed
She is resilient
Aneela Darbar is a neurosurgeon who loves her job, her womanhood and her early morning bicycle rides. This Miracle Woman is currently an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Agha Khan University. She moved back to Karachi from New York three years ago, after receiving her training to be able to spend more time with her family.
“Neurosurgery all over the world is a very male dominated field. It is not only physically tiring but also emotionally taxing. The kind of responsibilities and liabilities of life and death that one has to face doing my work is quite immense,”Aneela explains. Therefore, her job requires not just dedication but a lot of time as well. Aneela believes that as a result of the required time commitment, women who are home-makers cannot go into this field. “When I had chosen to become a neurosurgeon after medical school, I was told immediately that it is impossible to get a neurosurgery slot in USA, that too for a brown woman, in a program with only a hundred slots. I was the only woman amongst a bunch of white males that got selected. Our mornings would start at 5 am but I used make sure to go with my makeup on!” She laughs. Aneela says she had decided from the outset that she is a woman and will not change her outlook to blend in with the rest of the male doctors. Recalling her time of training, she says that she used to stand out when she would enter a room full of doctors as her appearance would shatter the stereotypical image of a neurosurgeon. “Some of them would understand and become comfortable soon while others would keep feeling a woman can never be a good neurosurgeon.” She’s extremely proud of the fact that since she has been at Agha Khan, five more women have been inducted in the neurosurgery program at the university.
It’s difficult for Anila to pick one moment as her Miracle moment. She chooses to define it as her miracle transformation as a person. Her profession has given her a lot of pride but has also shaped her into being more humane and compassionate. She admits that when she started off, she was very arrogant because of her success but her journey helped her realize that life and death is a close line and you can lose someone you love in seconds. “I am a woman after all, I am sensitive, and it affects me,” She says with tears in her eyes.
The strong and the very dedicated Aneela is a firm believer of the fact that every person needs self-love and self-care. Nobody can do that job for you but yourself. She uses various products to keep her skin young and fresh. She is also an athlete and bikes 50 km every day in the morning and a 100 km on Sunday to keep herself fit.
Looking back, she feels that the one thing she would do differently if given the chance would be to pick up her phone more often and connect with friends, call her parents more and ask them how they are. “When you are focused on a goal you have a tunnel vision and forget what is happening in the periphery – family, friends, parents get neglected.” She says with a hint of regret in her smile.
Aneela Darbar is the personification of success and a woman worthy of admiration. When seen beyond her white lab coat, she is a warm, caring woman who is open to learning from her mistakes. It is said that to be successful, the first thing to do is to fall in love with your work. Aneela has done exactly that to be where she is today.
She is an Airport Services Manager
She is a ballet instructor
She is accommodating
Anita Contractor takes life as it comes and ensures that she is flexible enough to withstand all challenges thrown at her. Her job, which she has been excelling at for three decades, as an Airport Services manager for Emirates is an unorthodox one. Not only is the aviation industry predominantly male, the hours are long and unusual, and the security situation of Karachi only adds to the problems. Initially her family wasn’t comfortable with her working at an airport especially during the night shifts. But with the perseverance she has exhibited throughout her life, Anita convinced her family about how the importance of her career trumps the concerns about safety. “I am a proud mother of three daughters and very happily married,” she exclaims, “but it wasn’t easy to convince my family about my job. It took me time to explain to them that my career was important to me and this is the path I want to take.” Her message to women is that first they must be convinced of their own abilities and only then will they find solutions to squeeze through constraints and juggle the various roles they occupy.
Apart from her main job, Anita contributes to the wellbeing of Karachi by investing a lot of time in social work and by being one of the few ballet instructors for little girls in the city. She recalls the difficulties she had to face in the initial days of her motherhood because there was no trend of women bringing children to work. “Twenty one years ago there was no concept of taking a child to work in a public area. Feeding, and everything else, was a major struggle. Without the immense support of my parents and husband it would not have been possible.” At one point Anita also had to look after her ailing father after her mother passed away. “He was immobile. I wanted to be with him so I used to get to his house immediately after work.”
According to Anita, being an independent woman does not mean ignoring the male influence in her life. One needs to enrich one’s life by embracing an understanding of each other and supporting each other. “Remember that it is God who created both men and women. Without women you are nowhere as a man, and vice versa. Work with your place in the world.”
Anita’s miracle moment came when she got her promotion purely on merit. She recalled how fifteen years ago she was almost selected as the Airport Services Manager but was told that being a woman will be a hindrance in the role. And now, several years later, as she performs and excels at that same role, she is setting the bar and leading the struggle to shatter the glass ceiling that still exists in the aviation industry.
She is an HR Consultant
She is a single mother
She is a fighter
Aysha personifies the spirit of resilience that is the hallmark of every successful woman. She is the Head of Executive Search at Prime HR and a mother to a twelve year old daughter. The balance she has brought in her life between being fiercely independent and nurturing loving relationships is an embodiment of the miracle woman of today. “It was difficult yes, but never impossible”, proclaims Aysha as she speaks about the struggles of a single mom juggling a child, a home, and work. It was clear that the bond she shares with her daughter is a special one indeed. She believes that she never had to make a choice between work and motherhood because she finds a friend in her daughter who is a source of strength. “I believe in quality time and I am certain I am doing a good job at giving that to my daughter,” She says with confidence.
“Despite the lack of support from society and criticism all around, it is always your will that makes you persevere and succeed,” She says. She lost the family support she had when she lost her parents but with patience, focus and the support of responsible employers, she kept fighting. “I used to get those 911 calls from home when I would rush back, tend to my daughter and get back to work but my employers were always very understanding”. Multinational Companies now provide facilities like daycares and flexible working hours which stem from an understanding of the problems women face in our society. That is something that is still missing in smaller and local companies. According to Aysha, if a woman has the option of daycares, flexible hours and agile working, especially during the natal years it will make her contribution to work much more effective.
To be successful, Aysha believes one must keep going. “Never stop! Do not be afraid of mistakes. I have made mistakes and continue to do so but you learn from them. Do not let your mistakes beat you and keep going. As long as you’re moving in a certain direction you will reach somewhere,” she advises. Mistakes, after all, are proof that one is trying. It was her father’s strength that inspired her to be the woman she is today, taking challenges in stride and not succumbing to the problems life posed. With every new difficulty, she discovered new qualities and more positivity within herself.
Aysha stresses that a certain amount of ‘me’ time is essential for a person’s wellbeing. She believes in doing simple things like having a ritual for keeping her skin refreshed and cleansed, drinking lots of water throughout the day, and ensuring physical activity thrice a week. “I have started going for yoga classes because prevention is always better than cure. Also, the day my skin looks good and I’m wearing nice clothes, I feel energetic. The day I feel good about myself I’m ready to go and take on the world”.
Most people around her never believed that she could both raise a child and be successful at work. But her miracle moment proves that she has done an incredible job in both. She recalls the day she got a call from her daughter’s school that some parents want to meet the mother who is raising such a wonderful daughter was a magical feeling Aysha will never forget.
She ends by proclaiming, “I believe in love, I believe in magic, and I believe in miracles”. Her spirit is evident in those words and it’s obvious that there is a great deal of magic about her.
She is a school administrator
She is a mother
She is patient
Huma identifies herself as a caring and patient person and that is evident within the first few minutes of talking to her. She states that her journey has been smooth despite starting her career when she had two pre-teen daughters and an ailing mother-in-law. Only a person with unlimited patience can make such a statement.
She believes that emotional independence means not projecting your negativity on others. “If I am in a bad mood then it’s important that I deal with my emotions myself so I can give out positive vibes to people around me.” She continues by stating that financial independence is equally important for women irrespective of how much someone else is earning in the household. “It gives you pride and makes you aware of your self-worth.”
Her message to young women is that they need to be true to themselves and believe in their talent. “Start wherever you are, do what you can, and use what you have and soon you will rule the world.” However, she advises that one must not overthink about gender equality because both men and women face their own set of challenges. The key to balance and stability in a home is that a woman understands her role and the husband his responsibilities. “When a husband is supportive and the wife patient, there is harmony at home automatically.”
Everyone has weak moments in their lives. Huma shares her own when her mother in law was not well, she often would want to quit her job, finding herself torn between work and home. However, Huma dealt with the situation with serenity and managed to emerge as a victor.
To ensure that her age is merely a number, Huma practices yoga regularly. In addition to that she moisturizes her skin as a daily routine. She is a perfect role model for young women who find having a career and managing a home difficult. She embodies how with a bit of love and care everything is possible.
She is a restaurateur
She is a food-lover
She is determined
Humaira is a happily married woman and a mother to a wonderful daughter. Food is her passion and she has managed to turn her passion, her love, into her business. She is running Cafe Aylanto in Karachi for almost 20 years now and travels to Lahore often to manage the second branch of her restaurant there. She, at this point in her life, is having a ball designing menus, developing new recipes and looking after the general experience of her guests. However, even after meeting with a great deal of success and carving out a special name for herself in the restaurant business in Pakistan, she does not shy away from taking on new challenges and seeks to constantly improve herself.
Being in the restaurant business in Pakistan comes with its own challenges. Many amenities which may be taken for granted in the developed world are a constant source of difficulties and complications in a city like Karachi. One day you may face a power shortage and on another a transport strike. Sometimes rain plays havoc with the city and at other times there is no running water at the restaurant premises. These issues make running a business quite stressful. “You could have a restaurant full of guests, packed with a 100 people and you realise that the gas supply is cut!” explains Humaira. “There are moments when everything from the morning turns out wrong and everything is falling apart. That’s when you really want to throw in the towel and crawl back into bed. However, common sense prevails and after you get yourself back to calmer positions you relax and go back to work again.”
She recalls that when Cafe Aylanto first opened its doors, there was no concept of restaurants. “To change old mindsets and move people from hotels to our restaurant for something more personal, cosy and out of the ordinary, was a big challenge.” She relates an anecdote pertaining to the time when she had just come back from Italy after participating in a coffee-making training. “I came back with amazing roasted beans and was ready to make the best coffee ever. I decided to make some nice espressos, introduced them to our guests, but when they looked at the tiny espresso shots, they were shocked! Just convincing them that espresso coffee is served in a shot and not huge mugs, to which they were accustomed, was a task in itself.”
The determined, go-getter Humaira admits that she loves what she does. “I am a workaholic! I like getting things done quickly. I can’t be sitting in one place too long. Not even to watch an episode of a TV show!” However, she consciously schedules in time for her husband, her daughter and her own self. She adds that “Women are perfectionists. They want to be the perfect wives, understanding mothers, loving daughters and great hosts. Once in a while they need to realise they matter. From time to time it is important for a woman to put herself first.”
Humaira believes financial independence is very important, not just for her but for any other woman. It gives her a sense of self-esteem and confidence. “The feeling of knowing that you can stand on your own two feet is just great even if you have family support.” As far as ageing is concerned, Humaira reveals that she does not believe in fighting it since it is a natural process. However, she does try to eat healthy and exercise to keep herself fit. “I am a nature loving person so I go for holidays, take walks, swim and enjoy some time on the beach.”
“My Miracle moment comes just about every day. It’s the time when my guest gets up from his table, satisfied, and happily exclaims ‘wow, I loved my meal!’ That’s the minute I think I’ve done it.” Humaira says with a content smile. Steve Jobs said “The only way to do great work is to do what you love.” Humaira shows just that with her miracle journey.
Maliha Anwer Khan
She is a Banker
She is cheerful
She is invincible
“You get kicked around by circumstance but you must tell yourself I am still invincible,” says Maliha Anwer Khan, the head of Wealth Management and Non-Resident Banking at UBL. She believes that one makes a choice when presented with a difficult situation – either you allow circumstances/people to make you give up or you gather yourself, stand up again and face the world. Maliha has always chosen to face difficult situations with strength and confidence, no matter what.
Maliha has faced her share of challenges but feels that they are in no way comparable to the ones faced by the working women who belong to smaller towns. “Managing home along with work is difficult,” she admits. “I have to be there for my meetings and make sure there is running water in the taps at home.” Her job requires her to travel across Pakistan and has observed young women at work in various different cities and has makes her feel grateful about her own life. “They are the ones who face the real challenges, winning bread for their families, using public transport and dealing with men while sitting at the tele-counter. So, kudos to them. When I see them, I say to myself what am I complaining about?”
On the issue of gender equality in Pakistan, Maliha says that it is very much absent and women have to deal with the consequences of that on an everyday basis. “That term is misused. There’s no such thing as gender equality. We (women) are far superior. We reproduce, we have multiple emotions, we have the IQ, we are just better models. As far as the system is concerned, I’ve seen that women have to be smarter, harder working and need to prove themselves over and over again to get near the glass ceiling, let alone shatter it. There is inequality and we are measured against a higher bar,” She explains.
While Maliha does not want to be emotionally independent and feels she is dependent on other people for her happiness just as they are on her, financial independence for her is imperative. She believes working contributes immensely to a woman’s self esteem and confidence. Women are undermined and marginalised sometimes and by being working women, they can win themselves respect. She comments on domestic violence and says that it is a harsh reality but such a stigma is attached to it that many victims do not talk about it or ask for help. This must first be accepted and then steps be taken to address it. Even if a woman were to tell a friend that she is being victimised, the friend will not be able to offer much help other than feeling sorry for her or just giving her a shoulder to cry on. “Women in our country don’t know what to do next, how to get help, and that to me is a huge problem.”
Maliha believes that looking and feeling young is a matter of attitude. “I was nervous about ageing at first but then realised it kind of looks cool. These are the stripes I’ve gotten in the battlefield of life and I’ve emerged victorious. The key is to be comfortable in your skin.” she says with a smile. She does however indulge in regular facials and applies the Ponds Age Miracle cream as a routine. She also resorts to walking, swimming and practicing yoga to stay healthy.
For Maliha Anwer Khan, “There is a series of wonderful beautiful miraculous moments in one’s life; graduation, first job, the first car you drive, all these achievements give you immense happiness and it is all these moments when joined together make life beautiful.” Maliha, without a doubt is an example of someone who dreams big and knows how to reach out for her goals with dedication, strength and sheer passion. Her persistent will to just go out there and fulfil her aspirations is sure to inspire many other dreamers to carve out their own path and reach for the sky.
Mashmooma Zehra Majeed
She is a Chartered Financial Analyst
She is a photographer
She is realistic
Mashmooma comes across as a woman who never thought her place in the world was in question. Her success, ambitions, and diverse interests are a testament to what anyone, let alone a woman, can achieve if one puts their mind to it.
A Chartered Financial Analyst by qualification, head of the Mutual Funds Association by profession, and a photographer by passion, Mashmooma characterizes the successes of the modern woman. “Initially when I started there were a lot of male egos to deal with. Apart from the fact that I was a very young CFA, I was also a woman in a predominant male industry. I think I hurt a lot of egos by being a young female CFA,” she says with a smile. “There were a total of about fifty CFAs at that time and most of them had taken ages to pass all the exams.”
But she was able to make herself stand out very quickly. “If you know what you are doing, then people take you seriously,” she says. She was lucky to have good bosses who never let her gender come in the way of decisions, but she does feel that there is a major lack of mentorship in Pakistan. “In our country you have to take the initiative yourself. The culture of mentoring and grooming young talent is seriously missing,” according to Mashmooma. She believes that the trend of career planning and guidance needs to start at the school level.
Mashmooma has experienced several miracle moments in her life. Two that stand out are completing the CFA assessments at a very young age and completing the nanga parbat basecamp excursion despite having no trekking experience. She believes that experiences like these have transformed her into a person with much better temperament. From being a young hot headed girl she is now a mature, level mannered, and balanced individual.
According to Mashmooma a good work life balance is essential to maintain one’s energy levels. “I disconnect from work in the evenings and on weekends. Those times are about family, friends and hobbies,” says Mashmooma. She also stresses how she practices yoga, eats a lot of fruit, and drinks ample amounts of water to ensure that signs of ageing are kept at bay.
She ends by saying that the rapid entry of women in the workforce across all fields delights her. Her message to young women is that “the work environment has transformed for the better over the last few years. But it is important that girls don’t come into the work force with an attitude to pass time. Stay consistent, be realistic, and have a razor sharp focus on your delivery and you will find that there are no special preferences kept aside for men.” Mashmooma brings a sense of practicality and realism to the achievement of dreams and ambitions, and she certainly stands as a beacon of light for young women out there who want to pursue their dreams.
She is a banker
She is focused
She is well-grounded
A specialist of consumer financing and retail banking, Mehreen Ahmad holds an MBA degree from the Institute of Business Administration and has been a part of the banking industry of Karachi for over 20 years. Currently she is the Group Head of Retail South & New Initiatives at Bank Alfalah.
Mehreen is grateful that she did not have to face the challenges faced by an average Pakistani working woman. She was the only daughter, hence, the center of attention of her parents. “There was never any discrimination at home since I was the only child.” She considers herself very lucky as progression and opportunities constantly kept flowing at work helped her advance in her career. “There were periods when I felt I was stagnating and the boss was biased but I think it was important to keep my head down and focus on whatever role I was in. The key is to look at the bigger picture.” With sound advice from senior bankers, she kept climbing the ladder of success. “I am an optimist. That is how I define myself. I believe if you are hard working and are competent, no one can stop your growth.”
While Mehreen would not propagate emotional independence, she believes financial independence for women is important. “I am not saying you become completely liberated. The idea is to have that as your plan B. It gives security to your inner self and is good for your partner too,” Mehreen stresses. Her advice to a young woman entering the workforce is to go out there with a lot of confidence, without worrying about gender inequality as an issue. “What is important is your skill set, your ambition, and how you approach life. When you step into the workplace with a positive mind set, success will follow automatically.”
As far as ageing is concerned, Mehreen admits that “I was bad with all these things until last year but then my life changed a bit. I went to a leadership development program in France where we had world class trainers coaching us. One of them said that if you are not physically and mentally healthy, you cannot be a good leader. That thought resonated with me. Since I have come back, I put in a special effort to adding more greens to my diet, trying to stick to a light dinner and going to the gym regularly. My new lifestyle does great things for my mind.” She also adds that to feel young, one must think young, spend more time with younger people and keep evolving. Spending time with members of her team who are in their early 30s helps Mehreen be a better manager and gives her the opportunity to keep reinventing herself. “If there is urge to learn, to adapt, to try out new things, you will stay young.”
Mehreen believes that she does not have a single, but a series of miracle moments. When people look up to her in the industry for her professional skills, it makes her feel proud. Her Miracle Journey shows that there is no substitute for hard work and when you are focused, nothing can come between you and your goals. With women like her leading the way, young professional women in Pakistan have much to look forward to.