From the majestic mountain pastures to the corridors of power and every male dominated field, these extraordinary women have redefined the boundaries of what is achievable. These women are inspiring change and making history in their respective fields.
Join us in honouring the trailblazing women who have embodied resilience and paved a better, brighter and inclusive future for women in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Wakhi Shepherdesses
The Wakhi shepherdesses of Pakistan have trekked distant mountain pastures for generations. As their traditional lifestyle fades away, BBC 100 Women accompanied the last 7 Wakhi shepherdesses on one of their final journeys to Pamir, 5000m above sea level. These women, who have been the economic backbone of their community, used revenue from sheep-shearing and dairy production to fund essential needs like healthcare and education, as well as construct the valley’s first road. Evolving into successful businesswomen, their contributions led to improvements in infrastructure, and overall quality of life for the community, leaving a lasting legacy.
Salima Ikram, a Distinguished University Professor of Egyptology at The American University in Cairo, stands out as a prominent figure in the field of Egyptology. Her remarkable career has spanned multiple continents, from Turkey to the United States, and her contributions have left an indelible mark on the study of ancient Egypt. Salima Ikram holds a unique distinction as the sole female Pakistani archaeologist actively working in Egypt, breaking barriers in a traditionally male-dominated field. Ikram’s notable projects are the Animal Mummy Project, the North Kharga Darb Ain Amur Survey, and the Valley of the Kings KV10/KV63 Mission.
Professor Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s first female architect, was bestowed with the prestigious 2023 Royal Gold Medal for architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects in June 2023. She is the first Pakistani to win the award and only the second woman to do so. This award is one of the highest honours for architects and the first to be personally sanctioned by King Charles III. The award is being conferred to Yasmeen Lari for her work in promoting zero-carbon self-build concepts for displaced populations. She is known for her outstanding contributions to architecture and humanitarian work. Her designs focus on issues such as deforestation, pollution, and health hazards faced by women in rural areas.
Art & Music
Waheeda Baloch, from Jamshoro, was appointed as the first female curator for the Karachi Biennale’s fourth edition (KB24), marking a historic milestone. Her dedication to showcasing artists in Sindh’s outskirts has established her as an influential figure, aligning with KB’s mission to challenge norms and promote experimentation. The Karachi Biennale has been transformative in redefining art perceptions in Pakistan, encouraging diverse mediums, inclusivity, and gender diversity in the art scene.
Breaking the stereotypes and defying expectations, the Manwa Sisters emerged as the first all-female Qawwali group from Pakistan. The Manwa Sisters are proud heirs of a rich musical legacy. Manwa Sisters released their first video song Allah Janey and since then have been unstoppable. Their compositions often reflect contemporary themes, addressing social issues and spreading messages of unity, love, and peace.
Singer, composer, and producer Arooj Aftab made the nation incredibly proud once again. Not only is Arooj the first Pakistani to win a Grammy, but she is now also the first Pakistani artist to perform at the Grammys as well. At the star-studded event, Arooj Aftab took centre stage along with Anoushka Shanker to perform their nomination song ‘Udhero Na’. Aftab was nominated in the Best Global Music Performance category. It was a piece that had appeared on the deluxe edition of Aftab’s breakout album Vulture Prince.
Bibi Zahra is the first and only female rickshaw driver in Quetta. She is breaking barriers and inspiring others with her determination and courage. Rickshaw driving in Quetta was predominantly male-dominated until Bibi Zahra’s arrival, challenging gender norms in the profession. As a mother of 5 daughters, she had been constantly facing a lot of pressure to give birth to a son, this led her to drive a rickshaw to earn a living. Despite facing resistance, Bibi Zahra’s passion for driving and empowering her community has made her a symbol of courage and change.
Her journey into the world of biking began with an act of defiance. Mariam Ali obtained her bike license, becoming one of the pioneering women in the 1990s to achieve this feat in Karachi. It was a remarkable milestone, given the prevailing societal norms that frowned upon women embracing motorcycle riding. Mariam continues to ride a Vespa inherited from her father in the 1960’s.
Dr Farhat Asif
Dr. Farhat Asif is the the first Pakistani woman to be chosen for the highly esteemed 2023-2024 International Women’s Forum (IWF) Leadership Fellows program. She is a notable figure known for her contributions to the fields of peace, diplomacy, and international relations. Her work reflects a commitment to promoting peace and advancing diplomatic initiatives on both national and international levels.
Khushi Ashok Kumar
Khushi Ashok Kumar became the first student from the Institute of Business Management to have been selected for the Sister2Sister Exchange Program at Southern Methodist University by American University. The Sister2Sister Exchange Program aims to empower Pakistani female college students, providing them with educational and professional skills to overcome cultural limitations. Khushi was amongst the 23 girls selected out of a thousand who applied for the exchange program.
Finance and Business
Dr. Ammara Farooq
Dr. Ammara Farooq created history by becoming the first female and Pakistani to chair the Asia Pacific board of the Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers (GAIL). She is the only Pakistani on the regional board which includes members from across borders, including Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, and even Australia. Dr. Ammara Farooq is the founding principal attorney of AFMalik Law, a Pakistani law firm, that has been working dedicatedly towards impact entrepreneurship development for 2 decades.
Sana Khan is now the country’s first ACCA-qualified trans person. Belonging from Multan and settling in Islamabad, Khan had to face several challenges before she could make this breakthrough. Sana studied ACCA and later completed her Bachelor in Science in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brooks University. Her passion and interest in finance made her the first ACCA-qualified transgender in Pakistan. Sana is currently working as a finance manager at a private organization.
Asqurr is Pakistan’s first and only women-led honey brand from Hunza. Nausheen Barkat and her mother started the brand. Asqurr is not only having a positive impact on the environment but the many women in Hunza have joined Nausheen and her mother and have started bee farming since. Asqurr currently employs females only throughout the bee farming process.
Law & Order
Sonia Shamroz Khan
Sonia Shamroz Khan, the District Police Officer and Senior Superintendent of Police in Battagram, KPK received international acclaim for her outstanding service. She was honoured with the ‘Officer of the Year’ award by the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) in Auckland, New Zealand for her outstanding contributions to law enforcement and her dedication to combating violence against women.
Khan’s achievements during her tenure as DPO in Chitral included establishing a complaint cell for women to address issues related to violence against women. She also activated women’s protection cells in response to rising female suicides attributed to gender-based violence and underage marriages, encouraging more women to report their problems to the police.
Faryal Fareed, a female police officer, made history in Balochistan as she assumed the role of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Jaffarabad on 1st September. It was the first time in the province’s history that a woman had been entrusted with such a high-ranking position. Hailing from Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Faryal also became the first female police officer to be awarded the prestigious “Sword of Honour.” This recognition was bestowed upon her in 2018 as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP).
Erum Mohmand achieved a remarkable milestone by becoming the first woman from the tribal district of Mohmand to join the Balochistan Police. Erum has been appointed as a sub-inspector in the provincial police force, following in the footsteps of her late father, SSP Sajid Khan Mohmand, who bravely sacrificed his life during a terrorist suicide attack in Chaman back in July 2017. Erum aims to promote gender equality and encourage more women to pursue careers in law enforcement, bringing a unique perspective to community policing.
Sadia Danish of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has made history as the first female deputy speaker of the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly. The election took place without opposition as no other member from the opposition submitted nomination papers for the position. Sadia Danish, hailing from Gilgit, was elected to the assembly in 2020 on a reserved seat for women and had previously served as a member of PPP’s ticket from 2009 to 2014.
Kiran Khatri, a young woman from an economically disadvantaged district in Pakistan, defied all odds by passing the highly challenging CSS examination without any coaching classes. The CSS, or Central Superior Services, examination in Pakistan is renowned for its arduous nature and intense competition. Despite the challenges, Kiran studied from her home in Mithi and chose online classes as an alternative to coaching to acquire knowledge.
Kiran aims to inspire millions, hailing from a region known for its poverty, limited access to water, seasonal migration, and early marriages.
Farhat Mir, a 49-year-old Pakistani Muslim woman, has become the first female officer of Pakistani origin in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Mir hails from Pakistan and relocated to the United States after the tragic events of 9/11 arriving in the US after two years of the terror strike. She uses strong communication skills and makes connections with people of all faiths in the city. She mentions that she regularly visits the synagogue as part of her routine to make connections with the religious community.
Dr. Yasmin Dar
Dr Yasmin Dar made history by becoming the first Muslim female Lord Mayor in Manchester, UK. This remarkable achievement not only reflects the city’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity but also serves as a beacon of inspiration for individuals from all walks of life. As the first Muslim female Lord Mayor, Dr Yasmin Dar aims to enhance community engagement, strengthen interfaith dialogue, and promote a sense of belonging among all residents of Manchester. Her vision is to create a city that celebrates diversity, where individuals of different backgrounds can thrive and contribute to collective growth and prosperity.
Dr Zareen Roohi
Dr. Zareen Roohi Ahmed, of British-Pakistani origin, has been appointed as an advisor to King Charles, marking a historic moment for Pakistanis worldwide. This appointment carries particular significance as Dr. Zareen Ahmed became the first person of Pakistani descent to hold this prestigious position in the royal household.
Justice Mussarat Hilali
Justice Musarrat Hilali became Pakistan’s first appointed female Chief Justice for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and was sworn in as the second female judge in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, bringing the total number of judges to 16.
Attorney Nadia Kahf
Attorney Nadia Kahf became the first judge in the United States to wear a hijab (head covering) in U.S Superior Court. Kahf, who hails from Wayne and has Syrian heritage, specializes in family law and immigration and has been assigned to the superior court in New Jersey. Governor Phil Murphy nominated Kahf for the position over a year ago, and she was officially sworn in while holding a copy of the Qur’an.
Trailblazer Sabahat Rizvi was elected as the first woman Secretary of the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) in 130 years. Rizvi bagged 4310 votes while her two other rival candidates Mian Irfan and Qadir Baksh Chahal won 3745 and 2627 votes respectively.
On the other hand, Rabbiya Bajwa was elected as Vice President LHCBA. She bagged 3590 votes in total. Senior lawyers celebrated Sabahat Rizvi’s win by placing her high on their shoulders.
Ammara Athar made a name for herself in the world of law enforcement by creating history and becoming the first Chief Traffic Officer in Lahore. She became the first woman to hold this key traffic control position in the provincial capital of Lahore. Previously during the year, she became the first female District Police Officer (DPO) in Attock. She began her career as a police officer, working her way up through the ranks with hard work, dedication and a commitment to serving her community. Throughout her career, Ammara Athar has been a staunch advocate for the rights of citizens and has shown a deep commitment to ensuring that the rule of law is upheld.
Quratal Ain Malik
Quratulain Malik earned the title of becoming the first female Deputy Commissioner, Chakwal. After resuming the position, DC Quratulain Malik made a surprise visit to DHQ Hospital where she took a detailed tour while inquiring about the healthcare system. Not only did she keep a check on the medicines and staff, but also talked to the patients and asked them for their feedback about the services being provided at the hospital.
Laraib Abid, a dedicated champion for women’s health in Pakistan, has achieved a remarkable milestone by being appointed as a “Goal Keeper” by the Bill Gates Foundation. This prestigious recognition underscores her exceptional commitment and relentless dedication to enhancing the health and well-being of women not only within her community but also on a broader scale. Recognized for her significant impact on United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being), she plans to leverage this recognition to further advocate for women’s health and inspire others to join the cause.
Rana Ansar from MQM-Pakistan made history as the first woman Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly, replacing PTI’s Haleem Adil Sheikh. Rana Ansar has been serving as a member of the Sindh Assembly since August 2018, having previously been elected on a reserved seat for women in 2013. Born on August 17, 1966, in Hyderabad, she pursued her master’s degree in Islamic Culture from the University of Sindh.
Fouzia Younis, a British Pakistani diplomat, has made history by becoming the first British Muslim woman to be appointed as Head of a Diplomatic Post. She has been appointed as His Majesty’s British Consul General to Toronto, leaving her role as a senior British diplomat in Islamabad to take up her new position. Younis has also held several leadership positions within the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) Race Network, and was previously the communication director for the Pakistan Network.
Begum Amjadi Bano
Begum Amjadi Bano was an extraordinary woman who played a significant role in the political and social life of British India. She was the wife of Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar, a renowned Muslim leader, and political activist of the early twentieth century. Despite the societal constraints and limitations imposed on women during that era, Begum Amjadi Bano fearlessly broke barriers and played an active role towards freedom from India. While addressing the women’s central sub-committee at Islamia College, Lahore on 23rd March, she was the first one who referred to the Resolution as ‘Pakistan Resolution’, a title that was later picked up and chanted by millions.
Dr. Durroshum Khan
Dr. Durroshum Khan has made history by becoming Baluchistan’s first-ever female chairperson for local government elections. She is the daughter of Dr Rubaba Khan Buledi – a member of the Balochistan Legislative Assembly and Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Science and Information Technology. She has previously served as a member of the Baluchistan Assembly and was appointed as the advisor to the Balochistan Chief Minister on Women’s Development in 2019.
Hijab Zahid, a seasoned project manager, has been appointed as the first female general manager of Multan Sultans in the Pakistan Super League, succeeding Haider Azhar for the 2024 season. Zahid’s prior role was as the director of Grassroots Cricket, a digital media platform for cricket in Pakistan, highlighting her commitment to promoting the sport. Multan Sultans’ owner, Ali Tareen, aims to foster inclusivity by not only appointing Zahid but also considering three female coaches for the team, aiming to empower women in cricket management roles.
Naila Kiani became the first Pakistani woman to conquer Mount Lhotse, a historic achievement in mountaineering. She has successfully conquered the mighty Nanga Parbat, becoming one of the first Pakistani women to do so. Nanga Parbat also known as the ‘Killer Mountain’ is the world’s ninth-tallest mountain standing at 8,125 meters. Kiani has established herself as one of the most incredibly talented climbers in the world today. The mountaineer has submitted the Everest, the K2, Lhotse, Annapurna, G1, and the G2.
Dr. Sana Jamil, Ammara Sharif & Sohniya Baber
A group of Pakistani women recently achieved a historic first by successfully summiting the formidable Haramosh La. This awe-inspiring achievement, by Dr Sana Jamil, Ammara Sharif and Sohniya Baber not only showcased the immense talent and spirit of these trailblazing women but broke stereotypes attached to mountaineering and adventurous sport. Haramosh La holds the reputation of being Pakistan’s most technically challenging and perilous pass.
Six-year-old Arishka Laddha has recently accomplished a great feat, becoming the youngest Indian female to reach the Mount Everest Base Camp at an elevation of approximately 17,598 feet. Accompanied by her mother, Dimple Laddha, the duo trekked for 15 days, covering a distance of 130 kilometres in temperatures ranging from -3 to -17 degrees Celsius.
Tennis prodigy Haniya Minhas achieved one of the biggest milestones very early on in her career. The young tennis star is now Pakistan’s first and youngest teenager to officially join global sports giant Adidas as a sports ambassador. Haniya has won multiple accolades in Tennis and previously became the first Pakistani star to win a bronze medal at the prestigious Orange Bowl Tennis Championship.
Science & Technology
Hinza Asif marked a historic milestone as the first Pakistani woman to receive a nomination in the field of NFT and Web3 technologies. This recognition signifies a significant achievement, not only for Hinza herself but also for the Pakistani women who are boldly shattering barriers within the technology world.
Dr Sarah Qureshi
Dr Sarah Qureshi is Pakistan’s pride! She has made the country proud of her achievements on multiple occasions. Aside from being a PhD holder in Aerospace Engineering from Cranfield University, UK, she is also a licensed pilot. Dr Qureshi is also the founder of Pakistan’s first commercial Aircraft engine and Aircraft company in Pakistan – a company called “Aero Engine Craft” and the brains behind Pakistan’s and the world’s first eco-friendly aircraft engine.
Kanwal Naseer aka Kanwal Hameed was Pakistan’s first female announcer, first female newscaster, first female host, first female drama artist and first female producer. She represented Pakistan’s culture in 16 countries with the same elegance which was part of her personality. Her mother Mohini Hameed was a broadcaster and actress who was awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz twice. She was the one who spoke to viewers along with Tariq Aziz during the first-ever transmission of PTV, saying the iconic lines ‘Yeah Pakistan Television Hai’. Naseer was given the ‘Pride of Performance Award’ by President Pervez Musharraf while President Mamnoon Hussain presented the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ and also organised an event of tribute in her honour. Kanwal’s name was also recommended for ‘Sitara-e-Imtiaz’.
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