International Women’s Day prompted Summaya Afaq, 24, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Karachi, Pakistan, to reflect on Muniba Mazari, a woman who could rightly be called a warrior or ‘iron woman’ for her approach to extraordinary struggles.
Pakistan’s Muniba Mazari is an artist, writer, motivational speaker, host and philanthropist, but she believes that she could not have achieved so much had she not met a fateful accident when she was an undergraduate fine arts student.
Eight years back, when she was en route to her hometown of Rahim Yar Khan with her husband, her car fell into ditch because the driver fell asleep while driving! This sends chills down the spine as soon as people learn about the cause of tragic accident. Muniba couldn’t get first aid for almost 24 hours as the accident took place in an under-developed town. Admitted to a better hospital, she underwent three major and two minor surgeries but is paraplegic due to a spinal cord injury.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 20 to 30 per cent of people with spinal cord injury show clinically significant signs of depression and face barriers to economic participation, with a global unemployment rate of more than 60 per cent. Broken as she was, it was literally a make or break situation for Muniba, but she resolved to stay unbroken!
After being bed-ridden for two years and fighting pressure ulcers that result from immobility, she decided to take control of her life. During those two years while she was bed-ridden, she decided to fill her life with colours by painting with a deformed hand, and later started writing.
Her paintings portray women with beautiful wide eyes that are a depiction of hope and courage. In an interview, Muniba admitted that some of her paintings with ‘dark’ oil pastels are a testimony to the fact that she, too, has fears, but possesses the strength to overcome them by hiding them in her art work. Although wheelchair-bound, Muniba’s talents and spirits know no bounds. She became the first paraplegic model for prestigious Toni&Guy in Pakistan, and also a host for national television. Close relatives and friends made an exit from her life, but she slowly and steadily climbed the ladder of success with such courage, while others too often stumble even though walking with both their legs.
A single mother of a four-year-old adopted son, Muniba says she felt complete after adopting the child two days after his birth. She went on to participate at various conferences and forums as a motivational speaker. Last year, she grabbed the attention of the United Nations and was named Pakistan’s first female goodwill ambassador for UN Women to advance gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
It doesn’t stop here! Muniba Mazari was featured on the BBC 100 Women list for 2015 that focuses on sharing the stories of women who are often overlooked.
“You just cannot judge a person on a wheelchair. We are strong.” she tells BBC. And the biggest delight came when she made it to Forbes ’30 Under 30′ Asia list for 2016, in which the business magazine featured 600 young game-changers in 20 different fields.
In a Tedx talk, Muniba said that she doesn’t pray for a miracle to come and make her walk, rather asks God to give her the strength to overcome this adversity.
“My body is caged, but my mind is free and so is my soul. I can still dream big, I can still aim high; I can still aspire to inspire. Nothing should stop me,” Muniba says.
Muniba’s journey is a lesson for every person out there, be they physically challenged or not. Her long journey to success and fame is a result of faith, belief in herself and persistent hard work. I want to end this inspiring story by quoting Muniba’s mentor, who holds the world record for the longest non-stop drive by a quadriplegic, the late Sarmad Tariq:
‘’The standing ovation that you give me is deeply appreciated…..It is for two things that I cannot do and all of you if not most of you can, that is to stand up and clap. One thing that I want to leave you with is that whenever you feel down, just stand up and ovate for all the blessings that you have and so many of us don’t have”.
Photo credit: Image URI: http://mrg.bz/rk6g1U
I hail from Pakistan, Karachi, and am studying at Karachi University Business School. I have also worked as a free-lance writer for a local company, Brainees.
The global challenges related to quality education, poverty, illiteracy, extremism and exploitation of resources is a concern for me. I want to mobilize mentors to enlighten the youth of Pakistan about the value of critical thinking. The future of Pakistani children can be changed through empathy and volunteerism in underprivileged areas.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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Picture courtesy: Muniba’s Twitter account
Picture courtesy: Muniba’s Twitter account
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