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Women of Substance

Gone are the days when women were stigmatized for working, not leaving much room for selecting a profession except opting either teaching or nursing. These days’ women all over the world are defying conformist norms and joining fields that have been the domains of males for long and their Pakistani counterpart is no different. In this issue, Seher Zaman parleys with some extraordinary women, working in extraordinary fields, by way of paying tribute to all Pakistani women who have surpassed all odds and excelled in their respective fields of work.


Samar Minallah
Samar Minallah is probably the only woman documentary film maker in Pakistan who makes advocacy films. She has made many issue based documentaries that have won accolades in various international film festivals, the most recent being the Perdita Huston Human Rights Activist Award 2007 by United Nations Association for Capital Area. For Samar this is a great feat because she is a self taught documentary maker, having leant most of her editing and film makings skills through books. She has done her M.phil from Cambridge University in Anthropology and Development, it was there that she did a course called Ethnographic Film Making and decided she wanted to work in this medium. Samar’s first documentary was in Pushto called Swara, which is a custom similar to vanni in which girls are given as compensation to the enemy to resolve age old disputes. This documentary was shown to parliamentarians and because of it a law was passed that deemed swara illegal. After seeing the impact this documentary had, Samar decided to make documentaries only on social issues. She thinks the future of documentary makers in Pakistan is very bright, but it will take time before people realise how important social and advocacy documentaries are, especially in a society like ours. Samar continues to make documentaries on issues that plague our society and hopes that her work has the right impact on the masses.


Frieha Altaf
The most recognizable face of our fashion industry, Frieha Altaf has swiftly made her mark as the most sort after event manager in Pakistan. She is a force to be reckoned with in the cut throat world of high fashion and mega events. Ever since her modelling days, Frieha has deviated from conventional standards and created her own distinctive approach to everything, be it modelling or event management. She is the CEO of CatWalk, an event management and modelling agency. This multi-tasking catwalk queen of yesteryear is not only into organizing events, but is also busy moulding models and celebrities alike. The force behind mega events like the Lux Style Awards that are held annually, Frieha has also represented Pakistan abroad, organizing shows in major cities around the world. With so much going for her, we expect to see more of Frieha in the years to come and keenly look forward to all the events she has aligned to bedazzle the public.     


Syed Lala Rukh
Lala Rukh is the first women to be a news camera journalist in Pakistan. For her the journey to becoming a camera journalist started from her school days when she used to take photographs for various papers. Thus, starting her career as a photographer, the next step for her was to move on to camera journalism. Her desire to do something different led her to choose this field as a full time profession. She does not shy away from dangerous situations and has covered rioting, blast sites, public rallies etc. She even fractured her arm in a recent incident while filming. Through her sheer hard work and determination to prove herself in this field, she has carved a niche for herself and gained the respect of her fellow workers, especially male workers who thought that she could not last in this field for long. Lala Rukh has received many awards from the government of Pakistan, the most recent being Maadr-e-Millat Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal for being the first woman news camera journalist. It is women like Lala Rukh who give us hope and determination that nothing is impossible and that anything can be achieved if we only have the will to work hard.


Anila Altaf

Hailing from the small town of Gujjar Khan, Anila always dreamt of working in the big city. This dream finally materialized when she answered a call for women recruits in police and passed the entry test. Most of the women in her family choose to go into teaching, but for Anila the allure of the uniform was too much to resist. The rigorous year and a half training imbued in her nerves to stand for eight hours field duty at a stretch, irrespective of the weather. She joined Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) in May 2005 as Traffic Constable. Anila along with other women recruits of ITP faced many difficulties in the beginning, including jeers about their uniform, but they stood their ground and continued to do field duty. The recent bombings have not marred her determination, but only strengthened her resolve to serve and work for her country with pride.  


Nasreen Jalil
The current Naib Nazim of Karachi, Ms. Nasreen Jalil’s responsibilities include smooth running of the city and urban development and that civic amenities are provided to the citizens. Ms. Jalil was a social worker for a very long time before she decided join a political organization and gradually rose to the post that she is in today. At the beginning of her career she was made to do menial work like making tea, photocopying or answering the phone etc. but she was determined to do something substantial and through sheer resilience got elected to the senate. It took her six years to get this nomination. A dynamic person since her academic days, Ms. Jalil took a year off from her studies at Karachi University to go to Paris to study French. She also got her licence as a commercial pilot in 1966 and was instructor of the Hong Kong Aero Club. Ms. Jalil has endured all the hardships that come with being in politics and proved her worth in a profession in which throughout the world women participation is minimal. She has not only established herself as a worthy political figure, but also proved that being a woman does not curtail one from achieving their dreams.



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