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Award ceremony celebrates trailblazing women

Faisal Quraishi

KARACHI: In recognition of the impact women have on the economy of Pakistan, the 4th Ladies Fund Women’s Awards were held on the lawns of the Mohatta Palace Museum on Thursday. Among others, the awards ceremony honoured the world’s youngest certified Microsoft professional Arfa Karim and the Academy Award-winning documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

At the start of the event, host Sidra Iqbal introduced the chief guest Fatima Surraiya Bajia along with Khush Bakht Shujaat and wife of the US ambassador to Pakistan Dr Marilyn Wyatt.

In her welcome address, Tara Uzra Dawood, President of Dawood Global Foundation, announced three scholarships for female students in partnership with Iqra University as well as virtual mentorships with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and the Google Foundation.

“Pakistani women are taking the world by storm and this ceremony is a celebration of you,” she enthused.

Fatima Surraiya Bajia in her speech said that she had enjoyed no bigger honour than today being among those who have given her so much love and respect. She added that she considered this honour — her 556th award — to be above all those that had preceded it, even the Imperial Order awarded to her by the government of Japan.

According to Dr Marilyn Wyatt, in Pakistan the year 2011 had proved to be good for women with a tough stand being taken officially in favour of acid attack victims and underage marriages as well as the country getting its first female foreign minister. She added that 2012 seemed equally promising for the Pakistani woman with the criminalising of domestic violence, the signing into law of the National Commission on the Status of Women and a local woman winning the Academy Award which, she said, in her own country is akin to entering the ranks of royalty. “Still, much more remains to be done as these laws are particularly difficult to implement but I believe you can do it and you must do it. The future depends on your efforts. Pakistan is way ahead of the US as it has had a female prime minister while the US still has to put a woman in the White House. When someone asked me what I found in Pakistan to be proud of I told them ‘It’s the women’.”

Out of nine finalists, three winners of three-year scholarships at Iqra University were announced. These were Haniya Sheikh (Bachelor of Textiles), Eman Mehmood (Bachelors in Electrical Engineering) and Maheen Khan (Bachelors in Business Administration).

An emotional moment arrived when Arfa Karim Randhawa’s parents received her award and announced the formation of a foundation in her name to help deserving children.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy received the Woman of the Year award, Rabia Khan was given the Trailblazer award, Zeenat Saeed Ahmed received the Momentum award while the Khushhali Bank Idol award was given to the late Arfa Karim. Each winner received a plaque, a Nokia Smartphone, a Threads & Motifs outfit, a D Philosophy gift, a Herbal World salon gift basket, a Snob.com personalised membership card, a Zerritta Flowers bouquet and a Mausummery outfit.

Entries for the nominees were submitted online after which judges Nilofer Saeed, Sameera Raja, Shireen Naqvi, Naheed Mashooqullah and Shamain Faruque shortlisted the nominations to the following top five finalists for this year. The winners were chosen based on on-air and online campaigns by Dawood Global Foundation, LadiesFund, Snob.com, CityFM89 and CIO Pakistan.

Earlier, a press conference was held to officially announce the 4th LadiesFund Women’s Awards. Panelist Tara Uzra Dawood, Sameera Raja, Pomme Gohar, Nilofer Saeed, Lubna Qureshi and Maha Sarwar spoke about their commitment to celebrating women’s achievements, facilitating their financial security and entrepreneurship and providing them opportunities through the platform.

The advisory council members include Amir Adnan, Byram Avari, Dr Ishrat Husain, Nasreen Jalil, Shafqat Sultana, Saad Khan, Sultana Siddiqui and Syed Ali Reza.

Past winners include Naseem Hameed, Rabia Garib, Rehana Hakim, Anita Ghulam Ali, Dr Ruth Pfau, Begum Sughra Kazmi, Khadija Malik & Kiran Aman, Nilofer Saeed, Maheen Khan, Daulat Rahimtoola, Shireen Naqvi, Nargis Baloch and Sheema Kirmani among others.

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