Women make it to the top in Foreign Ministry
The period between the International Women’s Day of 2007 and 2008 saw three women career diplomats making it to the top echelon of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which for decades remained the exclusive domain of their male colleagues.
Ms Fauzia Nasreen who enjoys the rank of a secretary is the senior most among the three women officers serving at the headquarters. The other two are Ms Attiya Mehmood, additional secretary (Americas) and Ms Shireen Moiz, additional secretary (Administration).
Ms Fauzia Nasreen is at present the director-general of the Foreign Service Academy of Pakistan. Significantly she is the first woman officer to head this key institution where diplomats from numerous countries are trained.
Notably Ms Fauzia Nasreen was the first woman to join the Foreign Service of Pakistan in 1973 through the regular entry examination of the Superior Services.
She took over as the 16th director-general of the Foreign Service Academy (FSA) in January 2007. The FSA, established in 1981, has to date trained around 1000 diplomats from 90 countries in the Asian, African and Middle Eastern regions. Some junior officers from the European countries including Bosnia and Cyprus have also attended courses at the Academy.
When Ms Fauzia Nasreen returned to the Headquarters in August 2006 Islamabad after completing her ambassadorial tenure in Poland she took over as the head of the Europe Division. That year she also earned the rare distinction of officiating for a brief period as the foreign secretary, a position never held by a woman officer in Pakistan.
In diplomatic circles the rising of women officers to the top hierarchy is seen as part of affirmative action for ensuring a level playing field in the Foreign Ministry. A former Pakistani woman ambassador Durray Shahwar Kureshi sees this as a positive sign and says it is good to see that the coveted positions in the Ministry are no longer confined to male officers.