There are many women and girls in Pakistan and abroad who have followed their dreams, regardless of all odds. These women and girls are extraordinary for being courageous and achieving their goals.
This year, WOW360 has compiled a list comprising of exceptional women and young girls who have displayed their true potential past year. The women and girls on the list include those who come from areas in Pakistan where women’s and girls’ roles are restricted. These women have broken social norms and stereotypes whilst crushing boundaries to showcase their capabilities.
Notable names on the list include Nigar Johar Khan who has become the first-ever female Col Commandant of Medical Corps, Arooj Aftab who has become the first Pakistani to be nominated for the Best New Artist for the Grammy Awards, and Arish Fatima who is first 4 years old Pakistani who has become the youngest Microsoft professional.
Pakistan’s southern Sindh province appointed Tanzeela Qambrani, a female lawmaker of African descent, to its cabinet, making her the first member of the country’s African-Pakistani community to hold a cabinet responsibility. Tanzeela has been declared as a special assistant to the province’s chief minister. She belongs to the Sheedi community.
Saima Saleem, a visually impaired diplomat from Pakistan used braille (a form of written language for blind people) for the very first time to present the country’s position at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). She is also the first blind Civil Servant of Pakistan. She holds several honorable degrees including an M.Phil in English Literature from Kinnaird University for Women (Pakistan, 2008), Fulbright fellowship in Advanced Studies in International Affairs from Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University (the United States, 2012), and LLM in international law with a specialization in international human rights law and international humanitarian law from Geneva Academy, University of Geneva (Switzerland, 2019).
Aimen Nadeem who serves the Foreign Service of Pakistan has become the first female officer ever to be posted at the Embassy of Pakistan in Riyadh as the 3rd Secretary. Foreign Officers are appointed in the region of interest by their home country to support prosperity, promote peace, and protect (Pakistani) citizens while encouraging their interests abroad.
Saima Mohsin has become the first Muslim to be a U.S. attorney in Michigan and the country. She has become the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She is currently the first assistant U.S. attorney for eastern Michigan. Mohsin has been working since 2002 as the federal prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office which makes her on top of her game in the field. Mohsin has also assisted in the U.S. Attorney’s Office Violent and Organized Crime Unit, the Drug Task Force, and the General Crimes Unit, the Department of Justice. Saima will be the new top federal prosecutor in Michigan, Detroit.
Asma Hamid is the first lawyer to bag ‘Advocate of the Year Title’ at Pakistan’s first women in law awards. Asma is an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Advocate General of Punjab known for her dispute resolution and litigation practice. Asma Hamid currently runs Asma Hamid Associates (AHA) which is a disputes-focused practice that caters to local and foreign clients who seek personalized and niche legal services in Pakistan.
Shahana Hanif has made history by becoming the first Muslim woman to represent the NYC city council. Hanif was a former City Council employee who won her election in the New York Brooklyn district (District 39). This covers Park Slope, Kensington, and parts of central Brooklyn. She is a Bangladeshi American and the first Muslim woman to be elected in the history of the City Council, although there are an estimated 769,000 Muslims in the vicinity. Hanif is also among two South Asian candidates to win as well as make history.
Salma Abdul Ghani
Salma Abdul Ghani has become the first traffic warden to participate in a UN mission for examinations and interviews from Pakistan. Pakistan’s female traffic warden Salma Abdul Ghani has won the Best Performance Award at the UN Mission. Ghani led officers from seven countries to Sudan and won the Best Performance Award. During the UN training, she participated in numerous training on modern police, cybersecurity, and law and order problems in operation. She told a local publication that she had learned ample knowledge during her Sudan training under the UN program. It will be useful to improve the performance of the traffic department in Pakistan.
Dilshad Pari has become the first female Station House Officer (SHO) of Shaghoor Police Station of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Chitral district in recent developments. After being deployed as SHO, Dilshad Pari inspected the situation lock-ups, security checkpoints of her police station, and pending police cases. Dilshad was in charge of the women’s desk in Lower Chitral. Through the public service commission, she was recruited as an assistant sub-inspector in the police. Dilshad has played a significant role in resolving the fundamental issues of women in lower Chitral. These included fake marriages, domestic disputes, etc.
Additional Inspector General (AIG) of Pakistani Police, Helena Iqbal Saeed, has been appointed as the first-ever Pakistani woman to UN Police Commissioner’s slot in Khartoum, Sudan. she also has the honor of becoming the first AIG from Quetta, Balochistan, for this rank. She is also the first person to reach flag rank in the history of the Police Service of Pakistan while also belonging to the Christian background.
ASI Ambreen has become the first female investigation officer posted at Islamabad Police Station. Ambreen leads from the front, performs her duties diligently, ensures transparency when dealing with the public. She does all that is required of an officer.
Shazia Ishaq 25-year old has become the first woman police officer in the Malakand division. Ishaq hails from a remote village of Upper Chitral and is the daughter of a retired junior commissioned officer of the Pak Army. She got appointed as an officer after she passed the competitive examination of the Federal Public Service Commission with flying colors. In 2018, Ishaq had earned a BS degree in political science from Islamia College University. She wanted to become a police officer from childhood, so the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) was her first choice from the very beginning.
Sonia Shamroz became the first-ever women district police officer (DPO) after being appointed by The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police for Lower Chitral. She is a grade-18 officer of the Police Service of Pakistan. Shamroz comes from a district in Abbottabad. After clearing her CSS exams, she was posted as the Assistant Superintendent of Police. She also holds an MBA degree in human resource management and joined the Pakistan Police Service in 2013. Shamroz returned to Pakistan just recently after completing her Chevening Fellowship in the United Kingdom.
DSP Shahzadi Gulfam
DSP Shahzadi Gulfam is the first woman police officer to receive The International Police Peacekeeper Award by the United Nations. She received her LUX HUM Women Leaders Award 2021 from Dr. Fahmida Mirza and Noman Ejaz for her outstanding contributions to various UN missions, for shattering a gender-based stereotype. She was awarded the first-ever UN International Female Police Peacekeeper Award for her many years of achievements in August 2011 by the United Nations Police Division in the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI), Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), and the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) and, International Scholarship Committee.
Fatima Changezi is the first female naval officer from District Gilgit, Pakistan. She is from Gilgit and has joined Pakistan Navy as a Sub-Lieutenant officer. Just recently, Changezi has received her rank after completing the 23rd Short Service Commission. She has many other accolades under her belt, including receiving a Gold Medal in sports for her commendable performance throughout the training period.
Nigar Johar Khan
Nigar Johar Khan, who held Pakistan Army’s first woman to hold Lieutenant General Rank, has become the first-ever female Col Commandant of Medical Corps. Lieutenant General Nigar Johar hails from Panjpit, Swabi district, and serves in the Pakistan Army as Commandant Military Hospital Rawalpindi. She has done her matriculation from Presentation Convent Girls High School in Rawalpindi and then graduated from Army Medical College. She received her Master’s degree in Advanced Medical Administration from Armed Forces Postgraduate Medical Institute (AFPGMI).
Dr. Irum Saba
BA faculty, Dr. Irum Saba, Program Director, MS Islamic Banking & Finance Program and Assistant Professor Department of Finance has become the first Pakistani female to join the Advisory board of the iPORTAL. She has been featured in Top-300 Women with Influence in Islamic Business and Finance under the WOMANi Programme, which comprises the WOMANi Report and WOMANi Awards founded by Cambridge IFA in 2019. She was also appointed as Grand Councillor of the Chartered Institute of Islamic Finance Professionals(CIIF) during the 3rd Annual General Meeting. She is also the first Pakistani who join this auspicious institution as the Grand Councillor.
Dr. Shamshad Akhtar
In a statement issued by the bourse, the former State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor and ex-caretaker finance minister, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, is elected as the first female chairperson of the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX). This is for the first time in history that a chairperson of the PSX is a woman. Akhtar was “unanimously elected” as an independent director on the board after a meeting was held recently after being appointed last month. Before getting elected, Akhtar was previously working for 10 years at the World Bank before joining the Asian Development Bank in 1990. She held a top position where her duties included overseeing the bank’s operations in many countries. She was also an ADB expert on Southeast Asian economies.
Science & Technology
Zara Khan and Zenubia Khan
Pakistani twin sisters Zara Khan and Zenubia Khan become the youngest Microsoft Power Platform Certified Professionals at the age of 10. This makes them the first twin pair to globally pass the Power platform certification. Their father incited their interest in the software while he was working from home during worldwide lockdowns to curb the coronavirus. The girls self-taught themselves the basics of programming under his supervision.
Pakistani girl, Arish Fatima, who is only 4 years old has become the first youngest Microsoft professional in Pakistan. On Friday, the government of Pakistan made an announcement on the micro-blogging app, that at the age of four, Arish Fatima has set a record by scoring 831 marks in the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exam. As time passes by, we see, even younger girls acing this exam which truly is great. The little girl made the nation proud by breaking the world record by scoring more than the minimum passing score, which is 700 in the MCP exam. She achieved great success following her father, Osama, who is also an IT expert and has accomplished the milestone earlier on in his life.
Halima Iqbal and Farwah Tapal
Pakistan’s first women-led startup, Oraan, led by Halima Iqbal and Farwah Tapal raised $3 million in seed funding to increase financial accessibility for women aiming to serve the women of Pakistan by becoming a neo-bank. Oraan was initiated by Halima Iqbal, an investment banker. While researching financial services available to women in Pakistan, Halima quickly saw a clear gendered gap in financial accessibility. Hence came into the picture the concept of Oraan. Farwah Tapal, a design strategist who recently returned home from Spain, co-founded Oraan with Halima in 2018. Both shared a vision to increase the availability of financial services to women in Pakistan efficiently and effectively.
Pakistani American Doctor, Hina Chaudhary, a renowned cardiologist for her breakthrough research in the domain of cardiac health has been featured amongst the top science fellows by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the United States of America for the National Research Service Award. This makes her the first female on the list from her country. She has found a way to regenerate dead heart cells after a heart attack. Her research revolves around the complete process of new heart muscle growth. Dr. Hina is also an Irving scholar. Previously she has also been featured among the top-20 most influential women in science in the entire Islamic world. She is also the winner of a $2.9 million research grant from the National Institute of Health to further her study into cardiac cell rejuvenation.
Dr. Sania Khan Ghauri
Dr. Sania Khan Ghauri is Pakistan’s first female doctor to complete her UK fellowship in Emergency Medicine from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, whilst serving in Pakistan. The emergency field is a specialization where doctors are prepared to deal with emergencies. Globally, this degree ranks as one of the highest. Based on this degree, you can work at any emergency ward as a consultant. Moreover, you can also lead the ward depending on capability.
Maryam Mujtaba, a resident of Muzaffarabad, has become the first female commercial pilot from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). Maryam hails from a family from Shopian in occupied Kashmir. These Kashmiri migrants are now settled in Rawalpindi and Muzaffarabad. Ms. Mujtaba first went under an initial aviation training from Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Later, she moved to New-Jersy, the USA, to receive her commercial pilot license (CPL) for further training. Just recently, PIA promoted Maryam as their ‘first officer’ after she finished requisite flying hours on domestic routes on Airbus-320. She is also a brand ambassador for Special Communications Organisation (SCO), a Pakistan army running telecom network in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Arooba Faridi has become Pakistan’s youngest female aerospace engineer which makes her the first at her age. She received her international aircraft maintenance license this year. She has a maximum basic categories license from EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). This means her license comprises CAT A1 & B1.1 (Aeroplanes Turbine) CAT A2 & B1.2 (Aeroplanes Piston). It took Arooba a total of 7 years of hard work and dedication to get here, where she is standing tall today.
Film & Media
Pakistani Oscar-winning filmmaker, journalist, and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is the first Pakistani director to be involved with Marvel. She has been featured on Asia Tatler’s Best Asian Directors list 2021. Obaid stood at the sixteenth spot, being the only Pakistani on the list. People’s Portfolio, a British human rights organization has awarded her for her documentaries.
Rawdah Mohamed is the first hijab-wearing editor at Vogue breaking stereotypes of Muslim women in the fashion world. Rawdah has taken up a senior position as the Fashion Editor of soon-to-be-launched Vogue Scandinavia where she will get a chance to identify gaps for Muslim women and in some capacity eradicate them. Rawdah wrote a post called “Hands off my Hijab” that created a social media storm. Rawdah’s post came around the time when the French senate’s vote to ban anyone under 18 from wearing the garment in public was in the works.
Dananeer Mobeen, also known as Pawri Girl is the first digital media personality this year to hit 1m + followers on Instagram within a year. In February, a 5-second clip of Dananeer went viral across the world. She made the clip randomly when she was traveling to Nathia Gali with a group of friends. The video remained on her phone for 10 days after she made it and then was uploaded at her friends’ request on her Instagram. She now stands at a whopping 1.7m followers on Instagram with more followers increasing every day. Her debut as an actor has also received positive reviews from fans. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.
Pakistani actress Ayeza Khan became the first Pakistani celebrity to reach 10.7 million followers on Instagram this year. She is one of the most successful actresses in the industry. Khan is the winner of numerous accolades, including Lux Style Awards, Hum Awards, and Pakistan International Screen Awards. Her drama serial ‘Meray Pass Tum Ho’ made headlines due to its controversial storyline written by Khalil ur Rehman. Other popular serials of Khan are Do Qadam Door Thay, Yaariyan, Mohabbat Tumse Nafrat Hai, Tum Kon Piya, and others.
Ridda Zahra Naqvi
Ridda Zahra Naqvi is Pakistan’s first beauty blogger with Down syndrome based in Islamabad. She has garnered 50k + followers his year since she started uploading her video tutorials on Instagram. She has been praised for her efforts widely, not just by the masses but also by Pakistani celebrities.
Arooj Aftab is the first female Grammy nominee from this year. She is a vocalist, music composer, and producer. By getting nominated, Arooj Aftab has become the first Pakistani to be nominated for the Best New Artist, described as a “category that recognizes an artist whose release achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape.” Arooj is a 36-year-old Brooklyn-based singer who was born in Saudi Arabia and grew up in Pakistan. She moved to New York after graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. She has three solo albums to her credit up to date.
Pakistani singer Aima Baig has been named ‘Top Local Female Artists in Pakistan 2021’. She is the first female artist to receive the title in Pakistan. Baig is a Pakistani but was raised in Oman. She received her Bachelor of Film and Television from the University of Lahore. She briefly appeared in Mazaaq Raat, a show on Dunya News, for two years between 2015 to 2017. Later, she rose to fame after she sang for Lahore Se Aagey in 2016. She continued to gain popularity for many of her soundtracks and later her appearance in Coke Studio.
At the tender age of 11, Pakistani creative writer Aysal Waheed successfully published six Amazon books which makes her the first to do so at her age. Five out of six books are solo books, while one of them is an anthology. Her solo books available on Amazon include A Day In The Life of A Pencil, Trough The Portal, etc. Aysal doesn’t just write books; she also contributes to newspapers and magazines actively. Currently, in the 6th grade, Aysal participates in various competitions that take place internationally and at home. She recently secured 4th position in the Internation Bulgarian Creative Writing Competition 2020. Her tremendous performance earned her appreciation from the Bulgarian ambassador present in Pakistan.
Misha Japanwala, a Pakistani visual artist and designer has become the first to mold and design body plate for American Rapper Cardi B to memorialize her second pregnancy. Her honorable works included a collaboration with supermodel Gigi Hadid last year. She designed a sculptural mask for a special issue of V Magazine that the supermodel guest-edited. In 2018, Vogue Spain featured Japanwala’s collection of breastplates and other wearable body castings modeled by French model Cindy Bruna in a six-page spread.
Her work also addresses women’s issues in Pakistan such as domestic violence and honor killings. This year she made it to Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia List 2021 among other 14 Pakistanis.
Alishba Mohsin is Pakistan’s first female jockey. Alishba hails from Lahore and is a private student in a school in Lahore currently completing her A-Level. . Alisha’s love for horses is infinite. At the mere age of 13, she joined the Lahore race club. However, she had to stop after a month as her studies were being affected. Later, after four years, at the age of 17, she decided to choose this path and approach it professionally and, in the process, became Pakistan’s first female jockey. Even though her family supports her ambition, they are always concerned about her as it is a dangerous sport.
Asma Jan and Kanza Malik
Pakistani female cyclists Asma Jan and Kanza Malik are the first to participate in ‘The World Road Cycling Championship’ this year. The two were joined by male members to participate in the race. Even though they didn’t win, they did make an effort to practice with available equipment, manage to get sponsors on board and experience in the race, and open doors for Pakistani women who wish to take part in the competition in the coming years.
Amna Al Qubaisi
21-Year-Old Amna Al Qubaisi is the first Emirati female racing driver blazing a trail in her field. At the age of 18, when we were all set to step into the adult world and apply for colleges and internships, Amna Al Qubaisi, an Emirati, was blazing a trail in her field. She became the first female Emirati race car driver soon after the Saudi government lifted the ban and allowed women to drive. Like any racing driver, her ultimate goal is to be able to drive Formula 1. Currently, she drives Formula 3.
Amina Shigri, a Pakistani 15-year-old from Gilgit-Baltistan, has become the first girl to summit Khosar Gang Peak. She was part of a three-member family team of climbers including her father and brother who successfully summited 6,400 meters Khosar Gang Peak located in northern Pakistan. Her father and brother were proud of her accomplishment of becoming the first female from Shigar valley of Gilgit-Baltistan to climb the peak.
Popular Pakistani cyclist, mountain biker, and extreme sports athlete Samar Khan made headlines after reaching the world’s second-highest mountain K2’s base camp on a cycle. As per the local publishing site, by traveling to the K2 base camp on her cycle, Khan has made history and become the only female cyclist in Pakistan to reach the campsite. Previously, Khan became the first Pakistani to summit Mount Kilimanjaro and the Biafo Glaciers in the Karakoram Range on a bike.
Naila Kiani has become the first female Pakistani mountaineer to climb the world’s thirteenth highest mountain, Gasherbrum-II. Before launching her rock-climbing career, in 2018, Kiani got married at the base camp of K2, the world’s second tallest peak. I am a professional banker and have been living in Dubai for the last five years. I am also a boxer, so I was confident about my ability to climb G-II, though I was a little nervous at the beginning.”
Maira Malik Awan and Palvasha Sultan
Pakistan’s first female duo, Maira Malik Awan and Palvasha Sultan secured the third position in the Cholistan jeep rally race. This powerful duo comes from the capital, Islamabad. Besides being part of the first female duo in the race, Maira is the youngest navigator who took part in the race while Palvasha was the youngest female driver. the girls did great by managing the finishing line and securing the third position.
British-Pakistani boxer Haseebah Abdullah, based in England, is working tirelessly on a goal to bring uniformity across the sporting industry. Last month, Haseebah was recognized as a “Hometown Hero” by Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The international multi-sport event acknowledged her for a “huge role in making the sport more inclusive” as England’s first hijab-wearing boxing coach. She is a native Gujrati from Pakistan’s Punjab.
Abtaha Maqsood is Britain’s first hijab-wearing Muslim female to play international cricket. Maqsood’s parents are from Lahore, Pakistan. However, she herself was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on June 11, 1999. At age 12, she was selected to represent Scotland’s under-17 squad against Ireland in a T20 tournament shortly after joining Poloc. Currently, she is playing for Birmingham Phoenix. The 22-year-old cricketer is playing for the new short format 200-ball cricket tournament “The Hundred” in England.
Komal Ali Shah
Komal Ali Shah has become the first Pakistani selected for the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy on Nuclear Weapons and Global Security 2021. Shah is not just the first Pakistani but also the first Pakistani woman to be selected for the course. The 25-year-old has been chosen among 41 international participants. Komal has completed her Master’s in Strategic and Nuclear Studies. She is currently doing her MPhil at the National Defence University.
Dr. Saima Yasin
The University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, has appointed Dr. Saima Yasin as its first female engineering professor in 100 years. The professor in the limelight is Dr. Saima Yasin, who has joined the Chemical Engineering Department. This makes her the first professor of engineering at the oldest and largest seat of higher learning in engineering and technology since its founding. The university Syndicate has appointed her as chairperson of the department as she is the only professor in her department of 23 teachers. This also makes her the first female chairperson of any engineering department at the UET and the province.
Fakiha Maqsood is the first from Faisalabad to become a global topper. She has scored the highest marks in the Advanced Taxation paper. She has also achieved the highest marks by any student in Pakistan in the Strategic Business Reporting exam. Maqsood has many accolades under her belt. She scored the second position in the City, the University of London, for a BSc Hons in accounting and finance after completing her O/A levels from Pakistan. She was previously a national position holder in ACCA’s Financial Management exam and topped Punjab in her A-level exams.
Aqsa Majeed Memon
Pakistani student Aqsa Majeed Memon is the youngest record holder in the world to complete the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) which makes her first, at the mere age of 18. When students are trying to pass their intermediate or A-Levels, Memon sets a different goal and achieved it with flying colors. This makes her the youngest Pakistani to complete the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Aqsa comes from a small town in Shaheed Benazirabad district, originally hailing from Sakrand. Memon has credited her family for this achievement as they made significant efforts for her to achieve her goal.
Pakistani origin Amna Ashraf has become the first woman of Pakistani origin in France to receive the french award for her services in the areas of education and social welfare. The French government has acknowledged her efforts as a Director and Founder of Femme Relais Médiatrice interculturelle de Champigny (FRMC). The organization essentially provides counseling and solutions to intercultural women. She is also the Director and Founder of “Pi” (Potential Incubator), an organization that assists young individuals in creating and unlocking their professional and business potential.