By: Beena Sarwar
BOSTON: Several Pakistani professional and community organisations based in New England hosted an event on Saturday night titled “Celebrate Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai”.
It was thanks to Malala that these organisations joined hands for the first time to organise an event, noted Dr Khalil Khatri, a Sindh Medical College graduate and Rotarian who conducted the event wearing an ajrak bow-tie.
The Association of Pakistani Physicians of New England (APPNE), the Pakistani Association of Greater Boston (PAGB), Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN), New England Pakhtoon Association, and Pakistani American Association of New Hampshire subsidised the event allowing for low-cost tickets.
Indian origin American Dr Kumble Rajesh who runs the Lowell Community Health Center where APPNE doctors volunteer had also sent a donation.The organisers showed a video of Malala’s inspiring speech after learning that she had won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr Rajesh’s daughter Ritu, a high school senior, told the gathering that her family was proud to support APPNE and Malala. “We are glad that APPNE, which has supported so many good causes has chosen to honor such a hero amongst us.”
“Malala’s story is inspirational to everyone, especially all young women in the world,” said Ritu. “Her courage in the face of such terrible adversity is humbling. She has stood tall in this very violent world and spoken to us about the power of education. Her story does not know any boundaries nor any religion. Even if a small number of us share the same passion she does about education, the world would be a different place.”
APPNE President Dr Muhammad Ramzan said that as a neurologist it hurts to see the facial nerve palsy on the face of a beautiful young girl, a permanent reminder of the attack Malala survived. He urged Pakistani Americans to do what they could for education back in their home communities in Pakistan.
Dr Jamila Khalil, a dentist and President of the New England Paktoon Association, said that as a Pakhtoon, a Pakistani and a woman, she was proud of Malala. She herself was born in a village in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa where there are no schools for girls beyond grade five.
“I would have been taken out of school if we were still living there,” she said. “I was put in a burqa at the age of nine. My mother never went to school. Today, I see girls going through the same struggle there. I have lots of love for my home country and I miss it. But these are things we have to change.”
Dr Salman Malik who heads Pakistani American Association of New Hampshire, also a dentist, said that as the Pakistani community in the USA was maturing, it was good to see so many different organisations come together.
He said it was surprising to learn that there are 75 Pakistani organisations in America representing 450,000 Pakistanis. “We need to communicate more. Malala has given us a good way to start the conversation”.
OPEN President Kewan Khwaja listed the key elements of entrepreneurship that Malala’s achievements and personality embody: vision, consistency, passion, executing her vision and taking a moment of adversity and converting it into an opportunity.
Isra Hussain, a Pakistani American studying at Boston College, said that Malala has inspired her to take forward her own passion for developing acceptance and respect for individuals with learning or mental disabilities in Muslim societies, particularly Pakistan.
Rotarian Rachel Williams shared details of one of the causes she is raising money for, to complete a girls’ school in Jamrud Agency.
PAGB President Tina Khan, honorary Consul General of Pakistan Shahid Khan, and Ethan Casey, author of “Alive and Well in Pakistan”, and others also addressed the gathering before dinner was served, followed by live Pashto music.