Women who make a difference…

By Sara Danial
Tue, 01, 24

This week You! highlights a few extraordinary women who have contributed towards a fairer society - advocating for gender equality and challenging systemic injustices…

Strong women play a pivotal role in shaping and advancing societies in multifaceted ways. Their presence brings diversity of thought, experience, and perspectives, contributing to a more inclusive and equitable society. As leaders, innovators, caregivers, and professionals, strong women break barriers and challenge stereotypes, inspiring others to reach their full potential. Their resilience in the face of adversity serves as a powerful example, instilling courage and determination among individuals across generations.

Empowered women serve as catalysts for progress and change. Their active participation in various spheres, including politics, business, education, and community initiatives, helps in fostering environments where opportunities are more accessible to all. By advocating for gender equality and challenging systemic injustices, strong women pave the way for a fairer society, promoting policies and initiatives that benefit individuals of all genders. Their influence extends beyond their immediate circles, sparking movements and creating networks that amplify voices and address societal issues.

Resilient women serve as role models for future generations. Their achievements and accomplishments demonstrate the limitless possibilities available to everyone, irrespective of gender. By encouraging young girls and women to pursue education, career goals, and personal aspirations, they contribute to a future where talent and potential are not limited by gender stereotypes. Empowering and uplifting women leads to a ripple effect, fostering a more dynamic and prosperous society where every individual can thrive and contribute their unique talents and skills.

Afroze-Numa – an inspiring soul

Recently, BBC revealed its 100 inspiring and influential women worldwide for 2023. The notable roster includes prominent figures such as attorney and former US First Lady Michelle Obama, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, Ballon d’Or-winning footballer Aitana Bonmatí, AI expert Timnit Gebru, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Hollywood star America Ferrera, and beauty mogul Huda Kattan. Amidst a year dominated by headlines of extreme weather, wildfires, floods, and natural disasters, the list spotlights women actively working to assist their communities in combating climate change and adapting to its repercussions.

Women who make a difference…

Within this esteemed list, BBC introduced Afroze-Numa, a Pakistani shepherdess, highlighting her role as one of the last Wakhi shepherdesses preserving an ancestral tradition. For nearly three decades, Afroze-Numa has cared for goats, yaks, and sheep, inheriting the practice from her mother and grandmothers. Her inclusion in the list recognises her dedication to a centuries-old tradition that faces extinction in Pakistan’s Shimshal valley. These shepherdesses, like Afroze-Numa, annually guide their flocks to pastures situated at an elevation of 4,800 meters (16,000 feet) above sea level. In this rugged terrain, they skilfully craft dairy products for barter while tending to their animals’ sustenance - a testament to their resilience and commitment to their heritage amidst changing times.

Afroze-Numa’s recognition in this prestigious line-up not only honours her personal accomplishments but also brings attention to the distinct hurdles and victories experienced by women in underrepresented areas worldwide. Her narrative stands as proof of the resilient essence of women who, despite encountering numerous challenges, persist in inspiring and impacting communities and the global sphere.

Tarciana Paula Gomes Medeiros – a finance wizard

Tarciana Paula Gomes Medeiros, a pioneering figure in finance and leadership, took the reins of Banco de Brazil in January 2023. This historic milestone not only marked a significant turning point for her but also for Brazil’s oldest financial institution, boasting a legacy of 215 years, and for Latin America as a whole, where it holds the position as the second-largest bank. This piece delves into the exceptional journey of Tarciana Paula Gomes Medeiros and her steadfast dedication to empowering women and championing environmental sustainability.

Women who make a difference…

Medeiros’s affiliation with Banco de Brazil commenced at the onset of the millennium when she joined the bank’s ranks in 2000. Her unwavering commitment and outstanding performance propelled her ascent within the organisation, culminating in her assuming the pivotal role of Chief Executive Officer at the outset of 2023. This ground-breaking appointment heralded her as the first woman ever to occupy this prestigious position in the bank’s illustrious history.

Beyond her ground-breaking accomplishments in the banking sphere, Tarciana Paula Gomes Medeiros stands as a fervent advocate for environmental causes. Her dedication to sustainability was highlighted by a compelling address she delivered at the 2023 United Nations General Assembly. In her speech, she eloquently stressed the urgent need for increased funding to bolster environmentally conscious businesses. Her impactful words resonated globally, igniting discussions and initiatives aimed at promoting eco-friendly practices within the financial landscape.

Bismah Maroof – an outstanding player

Bismah Maroof’s evolution mirrors the transformation of women’s cricket in Pakistan. Making her debut at the age of 15 in 2006, Maroof has blossomed into an undisputed leader within the team. Recognised for her poised and composed demeanour, she not only guides the team in terms of fitness but also serves as a source of strength through her spiritual guidance.

Women who make a difference…

Following Sana Mir’s resignation from captaincy, the talented cricketer from Lahore has steered Pakistan towards a new era of success. While her batting prowess was evident early in her career, since 2011, she has been encouraged to contribute with her slow, looping leg breaks. Having debuted at a young age, she swiftly evolved into a key leader within the team. Maroof’s calm and composed demeanour on the field reflects her influential role, both as a player and a captain. Recognised as one of the finest batswomen, she not only contributes significantly to the team’s batting line-up but also brings stability and strategic insight to the squad. Her resilience, commitment, and impact as a leader have solidified her position as a pivotal figure in Pakistani cricket, inspiring aspiring athletes and admirers alike.

Widely regarded as one of the team’s most exceptional batter, Maroof’s contributions extend beyond her cricketing skills. She has shattered stereotypes by seamlessly continuing her career after marriage and childbirth, setting a precedent for breaking barriers both on and off the field. Her determination has paved the way for ground-breaking achievements in women’s cricket in Pakistan.

Neha Mankani – a midwife par excellence

Women who make a difference…

Neha Mankani is the second Pakistani woman featured on BBC’s 100 inspiring and influential women worldwide for 2023 as she supplied essential birthing kits and offered midwifery assistance to over 15,000 families affected by the floods, potentially saving lives in critical childbirth situations. While serving as a midwife at a Karachi Hospital, Neha Mankani came to a profound realisation: the availability of relatively small amounts of money could mean the distinction between life and death for many of the women under her care. Witnessing distressing scenes of individuals outside the labour room, unable to afford life-saving treatments like blood transfusions due to financial constraints, deeply impacted her. Neha often encountered people in dire circumstances arising from unexpected medical emergencies, intensifying her commitment to make a difference. During a critical moment when a new born faced severe illness, Neha swiftly responded by urgently requesting a blood sample for testing. Confronted with the grandmother’s struggle to arrange funds overnight, Neha recognised the urgent need for an emergency financial resource. Taking action, she utilised social media, sending out a compelling message via Facebook. The overwhelming response resulted in the collection of thousands of dollars, empowering Neha to establish the ‘Mama Baby Fund’. In its inaugural six months, this initiative provided vital assistance to 150 families at the hospital, swiftly addressing their urgent emergency needs. Neha’s quick thinking and compassionate endeavour exemplify her dedication to bridging the financial gap for vulnerable families during critical medical emergencies.

Presently, Neha, an alumna of the ICM Young Leaders’ Programme, serves as the President of the Karachi branch within the Pakistan Midwives Association. Alongside her fellow midwives, Neha confronts various hurdles due to elevated maternal mortality rates and inadequate training standards. The challenges in Pakistan often revolve around midwives’ insufficient expertise, limited exposure, and lack of self-assurance. In response, Neha initiated a mentoring programme aimed at pairing new midwives with experienced counterparts. This endeavour focuses on enhancing the capabilities of midwifery graduates, equipping them to handle obstetric emergencies and fostering expertise in financial literacy and holistic woman-centred care. Engaging on a global scale, Neha actively participates in webinars and events to shed light on the myriad challenges women encounter during the COVID-19 pandemic. She fervently advocates for the indispensable role midwives play in women’s lives amid the pandemic’s adversities and beyond.

Nazanin Boniadi – an advocate of gender equality

Women who make a difference…

Nazanin Boniadi, the Iranian-British actress and activist, has been actively utilising her influence to address the infringement of women’s rights in Iran. She has fervently supported the ‘Women, Life, Freedom movement’, which gained momentum following the tragic passing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022. Through her platform, Boniadi vocally advocates for gender equality, shedding light on the challenges faced by women in Iran and championing the cause for justice and freedom.

Nazanin Boniadi’s efforts extend beyond her acting career as she passionately engages in humanitarian work and activism. Her involvement with organisations like Amnesty International and the Centre for Human Rights in Iran showcases her dedication to advocating for human rights, particularly focusing on the plight of women in her home country. Boniadi’s commitment to using her voice and platform to bring attention to social injustices and amplify marginalised voices serves as a testament to her advocacy for a more equitable and just society.

Nazia Shahrin – a visionary banker

Women who make a difference…

Nazia Shahrin holds the esteemed position of Senior Director of Regulatory Strategy & Delivery at RCB. As a prominent figure in the realm of personal and commercial banking, Nazia plays a pivotal role in devising astute strategies to ensure adherence to legal mandates. Her focus lies in fostering compliance with regulatory standards by spearheading innovative solutions. Nazia actively engages in collaborative endeavours with both internal teams and external technology partners. Through this collaboration, she endeavours to pioneer inventive approaches, leveraging automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), thereby revolutionising internal capabilities for enhanced efficiency and compliance.

Nazia Shahrin’s expertise and leadership extend beyond her role in regulatory strategy. Her visionary approach in amalgamating technology and banking not only ensures adherence to legal frameworks but also drives transformative change within the banking sector. By leveraging cutting-edge advancements like automation and AI, Nazia is instrumental in not just meeting compliance requirements but also propelling the industry towards a more technologically-driven, efficient, and compliant future. Her proactive stance in redefining banking practices underscores her commitment to pushing boundaries and fostering a culture of innovation within the banking landscape.

The writer is a communication specialist and a freelance journalist based in Karachi. She can be reached at