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Paraplegic artist Muniba Mazari and schoolgirl Ayesha Ishtiaque have been featured on the BBC 100 Women list for 2015.

The BBC 100 Women list focuses on sharing the stories of women who are often overlooked.

Muniba Mazari: fighting the taboo of disability

Mazari, 28, describes herself as an artist, motivational speaker and mother. She now speaks out about rights for disabled people in Pakistan.

The wheelchair-bound model and state television anchor lost the use of her legs in a car accident seven and a half years ago.

When she was hospitalised, she began painting, and says she hopes to spread the message of hope through her work.

"I always says it's a blessing in disguise because it made me realise the potential that I had in me. This injury really helped me in proving myself... You just cannot judge a person on a wheelchair. We are strong." she tells BBC.

"I was a housewife who was not allowed to do many things in life. Now I'm free to do everything. I did modelling, I'm into music. Now when they say I'm inspirational, I like to think these wheels are my wings," she says.

"People were telling me you won't be able to be a mother, you won't be able to walk again, you won't be able to live a happy life because you're in a wheelchair," she says.

She says she started painting to "add some colour" to the "sad, dull moments" she experienced.

"Using bright colours, I can probably hide that grief and sorrow in my work... This is the only way I can white it out and be myself," she says.

She says her four-year-old adopted son has helped her feel complete. "I have learnt so much from this little boy," Mazari says.

"If I lose hope around me, many people around me will lose hope."

Ayesha Ishtiaq: 'what makes a good girl?'

Ayesha Ishtiaq, 17, is "extremely passionate" about tackling sexism in Pakistani society and studying gender roles.

The Islamabad resident and schoolgirl also conducts talks on feminism and human rights with friends and aspires to study journalism and women's studies in the United States before returning to Pakistan to help others.

Ishtiaq says she has been writing poems about these issues since primary school, and considers Taylor Swift and Emma Watson role models.

"In our society we have a separate concept about what being a guy is and what being a girl is," she says.

Ishtiaq narrates an incident highlighting what it is to be a girl in Pakistan: "I came to school and the principal had changed. I don't think he knew even my name and the first thing he said to me was, 'Tie your hair you are a girl'. I just stared at him. 'What does that have to do with this?' 'You're going to get distracted. You can't focus on your studies if you have your hair open.'"

She remains hopeful for the future. "I think that things are changing now and a lot of the older generation is much more sexist than our generation... Many of my guy friends are starting to realise that a lot of us have the same rights as them," she says.

She, however, maintains the difference between genders must be preserved and says, "You don't have to fight anyone, you just have to be yourself and you just have to be more confident in who you are and not feel insecure about being a girl... You have to live up to it."

View the BBC 100 Women 2015 list.

Comments (22) Closed

Haroon Dec 02, 2015 01:48pm

I have never seen the moment where BBC will ever select any Women Scientist or Innovator from Pakistan. The Westerners always want to give Political statements and they make sure that in every news that Political ideology comes forward. So the cut in the top 100 or awards or whatever will always be based on the topics of Sexism, Patriarchal society or less rights to women in Pakistan than anything else.

SoCal Dec 02, 2015 03:01pm

Muniba Mazari's efforts are commendable. She's a very brave woman fighting the good fight.

Khalid Dec 02, 2015 03:10pm

Well done to both girls. Pakistan is probably one of the most suffocating society particularly for women. We want to control our sisters, wives and daughters like no other society and then we claim to be civilised!. And this is true across all provinces, social background etc. What a joke. As a Pakistani man, I sometimes wonder if we will ever be able to change our behaviour!. I guess the only way is to teach our boys (and men) to treat every single woman with respect and that will take generations, at least not in my lifetime.

ammaraaziz Dec 02, 2015 03:37pm


Raj Dec 02, 2015 04:01pm

Congrats Ayesha and Muniba. Muniba Mazari's video is already viral here in India on Whatsapp and facebook.

Iftikhar Husain Dec 02, 2015 05:38pm

Well done girls you are great.

Shoaib Dec 02, 2015 05:55pm

@Haroon Thats spot on. I have always thought the same way; the westran media show issue related to feminism as a ploy to make a public acceptance that woman must be like they are in west....this is the way to disintegrate the very fabric of our culture.....

AFZAL Dec 02, 2015 06:22pm

@Khalid You gave the answer to your own thoughts! As long as our male gender is chauvinist, macho types we will have to protect our females wherever and whenever possible. The mental set-up has to change and to respect not only the sisters, wives, mothers, etc. but also kids and elders whether male or female. At least not in the next couple of generations.

PakistanFirst Dec 02, 2015 07:00pm

How about Punjab's food safety minister as well as Pakistani women cricket team captain?

Haseena302 Dec 02, 2015 07:35pm

@PakistanFirst For raiding a bunch of restaurants and for playing a bunch of matches?

OmarFL Dec 02, 2015 07:43pm

@Haroon Agree with you 100% on so many other fronts also. Look at the Oscar award last year. Look at Malala. Look at Mukhar Maai.

Sivaram Pochiraju Dec 02, 2015 08:45pm

Thanks Dawn for this wonderful news. Of late I felt very sad mainly because of too much of negative news and plenty of negative comments, doesn't matter whoever has made whether Pakistanis or Indians.

I salute these two brave women since I wholeheartedly and firmly support women's emancipation globally and heartily congratulate them. May many such brave Pakistani women attain the crowning glory. May men globally encourage such brave women and also compete with them in a positive spirit in attaining crowning glory. May Pakistan prosper in all its positivity.

I want to read more such positive news, which inspires and encourages others to take up the challenges whatever they might be. Further such news brings immense happiness to all.

Canada Dec 02, 2015 09:43pm

Everytime I read something about a PKani that has done something positive or is in the news for altruistic/humantirian reasons, it is often a female. Despite PK society being paternalistic and the deep challenges women face, I as a man, applaud PK women for shedding a positive image upon pk. kudos to you ladies.

Azhar jamil Dec 02, 2015 11:02pm

Infact,Women are beautiful colours in the painting of this universe.Salute to these Pakistani women.They are not only mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, but they are nation's pride also.

Salim Haider Dec 02, 2015 11:24pm

Congrats to both of them and 7 women from India who made it to the top 100 list.

Raheela Tajwar Dec 03, 2015 01:14am

I am mother of Ayesha Ishtiaq. I was never aware of that Ayesha will be selected for this list or even such list exits. I am thankful for all encouraging comments but at the same time I wasn't to assure all those that my daughter is and will not be inspired by any western agenda. She knows her ethical values very well and within this domain she ll work for her future endeavours. We as a family and citizens of Pakistan are proud of our values and ethics. There are no deviations. Muneeba is also a very strong girl fighting with all odds. It is challenge to an ones authority but matter of respect and fighting for few of our basic rights. Profound regards

bea Dec 03, 2015 03:23am

@PakistanFirst why should a food safety minister be nominated,?

Alexa Dec 03, 2015 06:06am

I don't see any point in letting Ayesha Ishtiaq into the list. She just speaks about feminism and women's rights and hasn't achieved anything substantial till now. Several other pakistani teenagers maybe as devoted if not more to various other causes but have not yet received any recognition.

Abu-Salmaan Dec 03, 2015 08:45am

@SoCal She is very impressive and brave lady and by no means any less than Malala.

Abu-Salmaan Dec 03, 2015 08:55am

@Raheela Tajwar You are blessed, Alhamdolillah.

Abu-Salmaan Dec 03, 2015 09:04am

@Salim Haider congrats to all of them. In Pakistan beside what BBC selects you will see Malalas and Munibas everywhere, it's just matter of giving them exposure.

Yusra Dec 03, 2015 10:10pm

great ladies both of'em!!