LAHORE: Several successful Pakistani women came together on Thursday to share their inspiring stories with others as part of the International Women’s Day celebration.

The theme for the event was “Making it happen: inspirational stories of Pakistani women turning the tide” and was organised by Aurat Foundation in collaboration with Nestlé Pakistan.

Speakers included Fiza Farhan (2015 Forbes ‘30 under 30’ social entrepreneurs list); Muniba Mazari (artist, activist, motivational speaker), retired Justice Nasira Iqbal, Nasreen Zehra (Aurat Foundation director) and Mira Phailbus (educator). The event was moderated by actor/anchor Nadia Jamil who called the panelists “powerhouses” in themselves who had made the lives of other women better. She said she had been influenced by each of the panelists.

Fiza Farhan said she had not wanted to be defined as somebody’s daughter or wife. “Your gender becomes a strength” when women decide to go out and work. “We have one life so live the life that you want to live. Create opportunities for yourself and other women. Believe in yourself and in your passion,” she said.

Artist Muniba Mazari said she looked at her accident as an “opportunity”. She said she had “seen the worst but that brought out the best in me… I wanted a hero in my life but I couldn’t find one. So I decided to become one.” She said to her Pakistan was the perfect place for women to make their mark.

Mira Phailbus said when she was made principal, fathers used to come and tell her to offer “easy subjects” so that their daughters could pass and then get married.

She told them if they just wanted a college stamp they should take their daughters elsewhere because her vision was to help the girls “become independent and decision makers”.

Nasreen Zehra went back to work after a break of 15 years and started her career at Aurat Foundation in Quetta.

The job, she said, had made her stronger and empowered her. When her husband passed away, her work was what gave her strength, she said adding that she was proud that she had empowered her daughters too.

Retired Justice Nasira Iqbal described herself as being part of the generation “that broke the barriers.”

Hers, she said, was the time for “conformism and today is the time for change.” She was humble about her achievements. It was only when her children were in the high school that she decided to pursue her own interest.

She passed her law exams but started her practice only when her husband retired as a judge. She said she had to face a lot of sexism and attributed her success to good luck as well as hard work. “Only by leading the life you live can you create opportunities for other women,” she advised.

“There is a business case for gender balance but we believe that gender balance needs to envelop all segments of the society. Women are an integral part of society and should be an essential part of the workforce, whether it’s formal or informal economy.” said Waqar Ahmad, Head of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé Pakistan.

Published in Dawn March 6th, 2015

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