According to research data, 10% Pakistanis suffer from some kind of mental or physical disability. Things we take for granted – walking, talking, the ability to pick up a pen – can be daily struggles that are further compounded due to a lack of awareness, adequate healthcare and support in society.
On a journey to lead and inspire
One such story is of 21-year-old Azima Haider Zaidi (pictured above).
A resident of Islamabad, Azima was born with a limb deficiency caused by the medicine Thalidomide. The drug, marketed to help pregnant women with morning sickness, caused 10,000 cases of limb malformation in children worldwide. Many were born with missing limbs after their mothers took thalidomide.
This condition did not limit Azima however. With the use of prosthetic limbs, she is now a young leader, influencing thousands that have been encouraged and inspired by her.
Azima was constantly pushed and supported by her parents and peers to believe in herself and never let her confidence waver.
“I see life from a leader’s perspective and as a future leader I want to influence other people – whether disabled or otherwise,” says Azima. Her goal is to run her own organisation one day that focuses on inclusive education and gives hopes to people with special needs to move ahead in life.
While Azima is setting an example for those looking to overcome all obstacles, a husband and wife duo is hard at work helping more children reach their potential.
Spreading the message of education for all
When Aniqa Bano and Afzal Rasool failed to find a school for their daughter with hearing impairment in Gilgit-Baltistan, they decided to take matters in their own hands.
“We never would have spared a thought for deaf children if our own child was not one of them,” says Aniqa.
For her, being a mother of a child with a hearing impairment was a big challenge. There was no school for children with special needs in their area, so she and her husband decided to approach different schools and open one themselves. When they didn't get a positive response, the duo received training themselves and set up a small school that would provide hope, shelter and equal opportunities to special children.
Aniqa began the journey by teaching a small group of children in one of the rooms of her own home, and went on to set up the Narjis Khatoon Hearing Impairment School, a project of Health and Education Foundation, Skardu, in 2013.
Today, the school has 26 children, 18 of which are local.
Their journey has been anything but easy. With limited funds, it was difficult to set up everything from scratch, and they did not have the support of their families.
What keeps them going is the joy of seeing children learn and stand up on their own feet every single day.
“I thank Allah whenever I see a pencil in a child’s hands,” says Afzal Rasool.
Sparkistan is a CSR campaign by Atlas Battery, which highlights and celebrates the unsung heroes among us. The idea is to share stories of extraordinary Pakistani citizens who are inspiring others to improve their lives and the lives of those around them, just like a battery provides the spark that brings your car engine to life. The ongoing campaign will highlight 12 diverse individuals from all over Pakistan, each creating a spark that lights the lives of millions.
This content is produced in paid partnership with Atlas Battery.