“I am the hero in my story,” declared Muniba Mazari, speaking at Pond’s Miracle Journey event this Thursday.
Wheelchair-bound for the past seven years, the artist spoke of her daily struggle to overcome the obstacles in her life and the people around her who gave her strength. “Above all, I knew that I had to have faith in myself,” she said, moving members of the audience to tears. It was an apt speech that went on to conclude the event, paying ode to ten successful miraculous women including Muniba herself.
|Seen here with her son, Muniba Mazari moved the audience at Pond's Miracle Journey with her story of astounding perseverance. — Publicity photo|
Miracle Mentors — the selection process
Honoring Pakistani women for the second year in a row, Pond's has to be lauded for creating the evocative, inspiring Miracle Mentor Journey and remaining committed to its cause.
The brand selects ten 'Miracle Mentors' who then go on to select ten Miracle Women each, amassing a batch of 100 successful achievers by the end of the year. It is a platform which declares its faith in the tenacity and versatility of the Pakistani woman. A strong message and of course, a clever way for Pond’s to win over its target market: women, of course!
This year's Miracle Mentors spanned a range of fields from medicine to music. Singer Hadiqa Kiani, designer Shehla Chatoor, actress Saba Hamid, CEO Moomal Productions Momina Duraid, model cum designer cum salon owner Nadia Hussain, eye surgeon Dr Mahnaz Naveed Shah, artist Muniba Mazari, interior designer Sameena Abbas, make-up artiste Shamain Faruque and philanthropist Tahera Hasan were the brand's top picks.
|Miracle Mentors Hadiqa Kiani, Nadia Hussain, Momina Duraid and Shehla Chatoor. — Publicity photo|
By what criteria are these women selected? “It’s a tough task,” says Fareshteh Aslam, country head at Golin, who plays a pivotal role in orchestrating the event.
“We have to select women who are mothers as well as successful in their careers. That’s what makes them miraculous — their ability to balance a career with the demands of family-life. At the gala event held last year, we asked attendees to pass on their suggestions regarding who they’d want to be Miracle Mentors this time. Then, the brand and myself made the final selection. We made sure that our selection spanned different, diverse professions,” says Aslam.
Each mentor will go on to select 10 women, according to her own discretion. “If they have problems coming up with 10 names, we provide them with suggestions,” Aslam explains.
Last year’s mentors included stylist Saeeda Mandviwalla, actresses Atiqa Odho and Samina Peerzada, model Vaneeza Ahmed Ali and designers Shamaeel Ansari and Maheen Kardar Ali.
Miracle Mentors urge women to support each other, take ownership of their achievements
That Pond's chose women from beyond the instantly recognizable celebrity set led to slight confusion — “Who’s she? Is she also a mentor?” whispered some of the selected mentors. Some of the mentors were decidedly more low-profile than others, which was refreshing. Many of them didn’t know each other very well, but general bonhomie prevailed, and by the end of the event, they were ready to pose for plenty of those ever-rampant selfies.
|Hadiqa, Nadia and Momina. — Publicity photo|
And each Miracle Woman had an inspiring story to tell. “In recent years, we have set up a maternal health clinic and a School Health Care Project in Karachi’s Machar Colony,” explained Tahera Hasan, Director of the non-profit Imkaan Welfare Organization. “Machar Colony is the biggest katchi abadi in Karachi, with more than 700,000 inhabitants. Now, we are currently in the process of setting up a recreational facility there so that children do not play in the streets at times when they are not working. So far, Imkaan has been very low-key but I do realize that sometimes it is important to create awareness about what we are doing. A forum like this allows more people to know about our cause and prompt them to contribute, however they can.”
|Pond's Miracle Journey also honoured uncelebrated heroes like Imkaan Welfare Organization Director Tahera Hasan. — Publicity photo|
For others, being recognized as a Miracle Mentor was a recognition of the milestones they had achieved in life. “It’s not easy to be a mother and simultaneously build my business over the past two decades. It’s an honor for my efforts to be recognized at a platform like this,” said singer Hadiqa Kiani.
Hadiqa added, “Something like this allows us to set examples for other women to follow; women who may have felt that they can’t push boundaries and set new goals for themselves. As Pakistani women, we all have filial responsibilities, but we can also aspire to fulfill dreams that extend beyond our homes.”
Momina Duraid, meanwhile, spoke of the support given to her by her mother-in-law Sultana Siddiqui, president of HUM Network Limited, and husband.
“As women, when we get older, we need to remember to provide the same freedom and support to our own daughters and daughters-in-law. We shouldn’t be our own enemies,” she said.
|Eye surgeon Dr Mahnaz Naveed Shah. — Publicity photo|
In a room teeming with estrogen, there was bound to be plenty of praise lavished on supportive mother-in-laws, dedicated mothers, helpful husbands and the conundrum of balancing the home with a successful career. The saas-bahu talk was a tad fatiguing as one mentor who prefers to stay anonymous said: “Women need to be more proud of what they manage to achieve on their own, against all odds. Mother-in-laws and husbands can be lauded for their help, but there are so many others who have raised the bar despite facing the most difficult circumstances.”
Another off-the-record mentor hoped that such events would lead to better representation of women in other forms of media, such as the television drama where the tortured, crying woman has become a constant.
|Veteran actor Saba Hamid, who is mother to singer/actress/model Meesha Shafi and rap artist Faris Shafi, received a well-deserved honour at the event. — Publicity photo|
Can the Miracle Journey surpass glamour and have an impact in women's everyday lives?
One also wonders if, in the future, Pond’s support for Pakistani women can extend beyond glamorous platforms.
In 2010, when photographer Tapu Javeri was a Pond’s Brand Council member, the brand sponsored the launch of his book ‘Tapulicious’. In the future, as part of the Miracle Journey, could Pond's extend its budget to other, perhaps more philanthropic activities? In a society where there is a pertinent need for women’s empowerment, it is important for beauty brands like Pond’s to combine the requisite glamour quotient with causes that matter. The diverse selection of Miracle Mentors is a single step which can be taken much further.
The grand Pond’s gala at Karachi’s Mohatta Palace earlier this year, featuring all 100 ‘Miracle Women’, won the brand the ‘Best in Print’ accolade at the PAS Awards 2015. “The project’s been very successful and is now being pitched to brand heads in other regions,” says Fareshteh.
This year’s initial Miracle Mentor announcement had its fair share of glamour and designer-wear: Hadiqa looking fantastic in an Elan skirt, Shehla Chatoor in printed silk pants by her own label and host of the evening, Sidra Iqbal in a very pretty jacket and pant set by the House of Shamaeel.
|Host Sidra Iqbal wore Shamaeel, Hadiqa wore an Elan skirt and Shehla Chatoor wore her own label. — Publicity photo|
The razzle dazzle continues; but for a good cause and plenty of media mileage, of course!
Maliha Rehman is a fashion and lifestyle journalist with a penchant for writing, all the time! Log on to Twitter for more updates @maliharehman