A five-star hotel was the venue of an extraordinary conference on Tuesday, the International Women Leaders’ Summit, highlighting the way women in Pakistan had carved out a niche for themselves through unfailing determination in all spheres of activity hitherto considered the exclusively domain of males.
The conference, sponsored by the New World Concepts, highlighted women both in Pakistan and the rest of the world who were breaking into these spheres of activity in a big way in the corporate and business sectors and the armed forces. The moot also highlighted many global success stories.
Major-General Nigar Johar, vice-principal of the Army Medical College, the highest-ranking woman officer in the Pakistan Army, delivered the keynote address. She said, “The successful professional women are also faced with hurdles but they never give up.”
Narrating her climb to success, she praised the highly supportive role of her parents in her reaching the most enviable position she enjoys today. “I am proud of being a part of the Pakistan Army as the army is the epitome of discipline and constructive activity,” she said.
Major-General Nigar Johar said passion and compassion were the key words for treatment of patients. Turning to the prospective entrepreneurs, she said women had to achieve ten times as much to prove their mettle and climb the ladder of success.
“No society can progress if the women are left behind,” she said. Earlier, Yasmin Hyder, CEO, New World Concepts, welcoming the participants, in her inaugural speech, said that as per the World Bank (WB) figures, only 25 per cent of Pakistani women were employed in the labour force while they were 50 per cent of the population component. “We need to raise awareness of the fact that better societies can be nurtured by empowering women and each of us present here today can be a powerful tool of change, making gender-inclusiveness a global priority,” Hyder said.
Every woman leader, she said, had the opportunity and a powerful ability to improve the world around her, she said. “The biggest changes can start with the smallest steps,” said Hyder. She thanked the armed forces for their participation in the conference.
“We salute and admire our women officers for their gallantry and service to the nation. It is these officers who serve our nation selflessly without let or hindrance, sometimes amid life-threatening circumstances, just to make sure that we live safely and peacefully,” Hyder said.
Another female officer of the armed forces, Squadron-Leader Bisma Nasim of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), narrated her experiences in creating history by being the first woman paratrooper not just in Pakistan but in Asia.
She aired really thrilling videos of her base jumping from a low flying C-130 aircraft of the PAF, making a soft landing. She narrated how, in the face of severe odds and opposition, she persevered and with iron determination and finally made it to the parachuting stage after having been inducted into the PAF Engineering Branch.
The videos were a tribute to her iron determination whereby, despite opposition and being met with refusals, she finally achieved her life-long ambition and made inroads into a purely male domain, and not only that, but also competed successfully with her male counterparts.
In fact it was a really pleasant surprise to see so many female officers in the uniforms of all the three services at the venue. There was an interesting tripartite discussion among Swedish Ambassador to Pakistan Ingrid Johansson, Khalid Mansoor, president, Overseas Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), and Raza Pirbhai, CEO, KFC (Pakistan). The topic of the discussion was “Gender-inclusiveness in organisations”.
The OICCI president said there were 119 overseas multinationals serving Pakistan and female officers were fully participating in them. Swedish envoy Johansson said that Sweden had a very high percentage of women in the workforce, far more than the European Union (EU). She put the figure at 80 per cent.
Shamsuddin Shaikh, CEO, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company, narrated how his company was contributing to the emancipation of women in Pakistan’s most neglected area, Thar. He aired videos of once-rustic local women of Thar who had been trained to drive heavy dumper trucks. Two of these drivers, Lata and Rukhsana, were present at the venue.
He said that as for women drivers of heavy duty trucks even India didn’t have any or for that matter any Asian country. He said the only countries where there were women manning such heavy vehicles were South Africa, the US and Australia.
Showbiz personality Sarwat Gilani and Daniyal Alvi showed videos of special Olympics with special young people from Pakistan participating in the winter Olympics in Austria. A special person, Haseeb Abbasi, with challenges of autism, fluently read out his speech and gave a touching account of his life and success.
Brigitta Blaha of Austria and Ardi Stoios-Bracken, ambassadors of Austria and the Netherlands, respectively, talked about emigrants and the present trend of working across borders. They highlighted the advantages of this cross-border employment and highlighted the way digital technology had contributed to the phenomenon.
Others who spoke were Qashif Effendi of Reem Rice on the issue of branding of products, in conversation with Farhat Rashid, director marketing, Westbury, and Turkish journalist Tuba Ilze. Hilda Heye, CEO, Blue Wave, manaco narrated her climb to corporate success. Dr Ani Atanasova and Becky Lin also narrated their success stories.