LONDON: Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May has said that British Pakistani women are excelling in different fields yet too often their achievements go unacknowledged, but their role in the British democracy is second to none.
The Home Secretary said this while addressing the first ever Women Achievers Congress organised by World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis (WCOP) at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster to celebrate the struggles and triumphs of girls and women from the British Pakistani Diaspora.
She spoke about Britain’s historic relations with Pakistan and said that Muslims stood up to defend freedom and democracy all along, but notably in the Second World War. She appreciated the role of WCOP in celebrating the achievement of Pakistani origin women. “I want to thank the World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis for organising this Women Achievers event. In particular I want to mention Sajjad Karim, Chairman of the World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis and Member of the European Parliament, Syed Qamar Raza, co-Chairman and Director of Conservative Friends of Pakistan, Dr Suhail Chughtai, President of the World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis-UK, the board of governors and members of this organisation. And I want to thank the many British Pakistani women who contribute so much to this country and help make Britain what it is today.”
She said that the contribution of British Pakistani women is all around, in professional, public and private lives. She said that British Pakistani women were doing well in politics, but also in academia, public service, media, business, medicine, charities and in campaigning to improve the lives of people in this country and abroad. “I know from my visits to Pakistan and to communities in the UK, the warmth, compassion and good humour of the people of Pakistan and here.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK Syed Ibne Abbas said that Pakistan is giving full rights to women in all walks of life; first Muslim woman PM, Speaker, Foreign Minister; 33% reserved quota for women in Parliament.
“Pakistan is on the move, and wants to show the world the positivity that is generating there. Pakistan has moderate, enlightened, inclusive society; our diaspora in the UK is vibrant, and contributing a lot to British society.” The high commissioner dubbed the Congress as one of the most successful events to highlight achievements of women and hoped it would become a sustainable tradition.
Co-Chairman WCOP Syed Qamar Raza said, “We are here to dispel myths and shatter the stereotypes about Pakistani Diaspora. Pakistan produced the first ever woman Prime Minister of the Muslim World in 1980s. Today, we are sitting, working, getting along, and supporting each other, equal in dignity an opportunity in making the UK and this world a better place.”
Dr Suhail Chughtai President WCOP-UK said, “This Congress becomes a stepping stone. First of so many to come to recognise and acknowledge those who are the champions and to inspire those who are sitting on the fence to take the leap of possibilities. Let’s have more achievers for the UK among the British Pakistanis, more members of Parliament, more doctors in NHS, lawyers in the British courts, finance experts in Canary Wharf, academics in the British universities , athletes in Olympics, and we pledge to play our part, extend our hand, do our bid to make it possible.”
Arif Anis Malik, Executive Director World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis while opening the Women Achievers Congress said, “The great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women whose experiences go unnoticed. Our goals for this congress are to strengthen families and societies by strengthening women to take greater control over their own destinies, make better choices and make greater difference for themselves and their families and their communities.” While introducing the home secretary, he shared an interesting fact that late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto played as a matchmaker in Theresa May’s marriage with Philip John May due to their Oxford University connections. “Pakistan deserves some credit for setting up this happy marriage,” he quipped on a lighter note.
Speakers at the conference included Nigham Shahid, renowned Sociologist, Vanessa O’Brien, Guinness Book of World Record holder climber, Suniya Qureshi, Judith Diment, Tasmina Sheikh MP, Dr Aliya Ahmed, medical consultant & NHS professional, Mahnaz Malik, author & legal professional, Salma Bi, British-Asian sports award winner & first female Pakistani county cricketer, Zanab Farooq, the youngest British Pakistani commercial pilot, Almeena Ahmed-Ashraf, freelance journalist, Ahlya Fateh, Adeeba Malik CBE, Saira Awan Malik, founder of the British Pakistan Foundation Women’s Network, Cynthia Ritchie, Goodwill Ambassador to Pakistan & producer of the documentary ‘Emerging Face of Pakistan’.
Senior parliamentarian Khalid Mahmood MP from Birmingham attended the Congress and appreciated the initiative. Naz Shah MP from Bradford also spoke at the Congress and assured her support for such endeavours in the future.
Over 500 delegates attended the conference and heard speeches on. The conference was described by the attendees as a great success and a milestone in the right direction. Speaking to The News, the participants said that the organsiers had taken an important initiative by organising a conference of this nature which is aimed at encouraging more Pakistani women into politics and to bring them together for greater interaction.