KARACHI: Join us in celebrating these incredible women and following their journeys on Instagram. This article originally went up on International Women’s Day but we will continue to update this list so keep a look out for #WomanCrushWednesday!
Presenting, in no particular order, our list:
102. Maria Toorpakai Wazir
Pakistani squash player Maria Toorpakai Wazir began her athletic career disguised as a man. Belonging to the conservative region of Waziristan, Toorpakai dressed and acted like a boy from the age of four so she could go outside and play. At the age of 12, Toorpakai won a junior weightlifting tournament as a male participant, Genghis Khan. Moving to Peshawar, Toorpakai’s identity was revealed when she registered at a local squash academy. She was bullied for being a girl but did not let her passion for squash die. In 2007, she received the Salaam Pakistan Award and was nominated as Women’s International Squash Players Association Young Player of the Year. Toorpakai also triumphed at the 2nd Bahria Town International Women’s Squash Tournament and become the first female Pakistani player to win a PSA Challenger 10 event.
101. Tasneem Zehra Husain
A Pakistani theoretical physicist, Zehra received her early education in Lahore and then completed her Ph.D. in theoretical physics, became the first Pakistani woman String Theorist and went to Harvard University for a two-year-long postdoctoral research position. Returning to her homeland, Zehra helped establish the LUMS School of Science and Engineering. Zehra has represented Pakistan at the Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Germany and led the Pakistan team to the World Year of Physics Launch Conference in Paris. Zehra is also a trustee and board of directors of the Alif Laila Book Bus Society, a non-profit educational institution catering primarily to under-privileged children.
100. Asifa Akhtar
Originally from Karachi, Asifa Akhtar is a biologist who has made significant contributions to the field of chromosome regulation. She serves as Senior Group Leader and Director of the Department of Chromatin Regulation at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics. Akhtar was awarded the Early Career European Life Science Organisation Award in 2008, EMBO membership in 2013, and the Feldberg Prize in 2017. In 2020, she became the first international female vice president of the biology and medicine section at the Max Planck Society, Germany’s most successful research organization.
99. Saima Saleem
Challenging the stigmas and stereotypes associated with differently abled individuals, Saima Saleem is Pakistan’s first visually impaired CSS officer. Fighting for her rights, Saima became the reason why the CSS exams were conducted in Braille in Pakistan for the first time. After securing 6th position in Pakistan and 1st amongst women in the exams, Saima joined the Pakistan Foreign Services in 2009. With an M.Phil in Literature, Saima is working at Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. Her brother, Yousaf Saleem, is also the first blind judge of Pakistan.
98. Dr. Sarah Qureshi
Dr. Sarah Qureshi is a female aerospace engineer who has completed a Master in Aerospace Dynamics and a Ph.D. in Aerospace Propulsion. With a passion for aviation, Qureshi worked for over five years in Pakistan’s manufacturing and automotive industries as an undergraduate student. As the CEO of Aero Engine Craft, Pakistan’s first private commercial aerospace company, Qureshi is currently working towards sustainable airplane engines. Her team is in the process of developing the world’s first contrail-free aircraft engine to reduce aviation induced global warming and make air travel environmentally safe. Qureshi also conducts aviation programmes and lessons for kids to instill in young people a love of flying.
97. Raina Khan
Raina Khan found the Zenana Foundation at the young age of 16 years. She volunteers all around the world to set up free schools, started a skill training program for women, and built an online marketplace for trainees to sell sustainable garments. In 2017, Khan was chosen amongst top 23 dynamic girls from all over Pakistan for a fully-funded exchange to the United States. The following year, she was chosen as the only individual from Pakistan, amongst 24 other global leaders, as the Global Youth Ambassador. More recently, Khan was awarded The Diana Award 2020, in memory of Princess Diana by a charity supported by Prince William and Harry. She is headstrong in her belief that young people have the power to change the world.
96. Shabina Mustafa
The owner of The Garage School has an inspirational story to tell and an example to set for many. Widowed at a young age of 21, the single mother only learnt from her hardships and wanted to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than her. Adamant on making her late husband’s dream to start a school for the underprivileged come alive, Mustafa began teaching a single child in her garage in 1999. Soon, her garage was filled with children from low income areas and The Garage School came into being. Situated in Neelum Colony today, the school offers its students free meals every day, ration for their families and comprehensive health care.
95. Myra Lakdawala
A graduate of the University of Pacific with a double major in English and philosophy, Myra Lakdawala is also Pakistan’s fastest woman. She set the record in 2019 after finishing a five kilometer race in a little over 19 minutes at the Johnny Mathis Invitational, a track race competition in San Francisco. Lakdawala also bagged first position at the Jubilee Games 2016 in Dubai for women’s 1500 m race and holds the Pakistani record in the 3000 m race.
94. Mahoor Shahzad
Currently ranked at 133rd in the world, Mahoor Shahzad has been the National Badminton Champion of Pakistan for four consecutive years. She draws her inspiration from her father who has been her biggest supporter and trainer as well. Shahzad first held the badminton racket when she was only 11 years old and since then, the athlete has been on a winning streak. The next target for her is to represent Pakistan at the Olympic Games and we cannot wait to see her achieve it!
93: Zainab Chughtai
92: Afia Salam: Journalist/Activist
Known to be the first female cricket journalist, Afia Salam has been in the industry since 1978. Over the years, Afia has shifted her focus from cricket to a wide range of socio-cultural topics, such as gender, climate change and media ethics. She is now a force to be reckoned with and participates as a speaker in various panel discussions. It also helps that she’s extremely down-to-earth and insightful as a person and we couldn’t be more proud of her!
91. Afiya Zia: Researcher/Professor/Author
Afiya Zia is the author of the renowned book ‘Faith and Feminism in Pakistan’, a book that talks about the issues that Muslim women face when talking about secular autonomy. Not only is she an author but is also a feminist academic who routinely writes about gender politics for leading newspapers in the country, and as an activist, she is a credible and well known voice for all feminist issues that affect women in Pakistan.
90. Fareiha Aziz: Journalist/Activist
An award winning journalist, Fareiha Aziz describes herself as a cricket enthusiast on Twitter. She is the co-founder of Bolo Bhi, a civil society organization that works towards educating people about civic responsibility and their digital rights. Her journalism and activism are monumental in creating awareness about digital security and she routinely has her byline in leading newspapers in the country. We applaud her relentless effort in making the Internet a safe space for vulnerable people!
89. Veeru Kohli: Human Rights Activist
Veeru is a bonded labour and human rights activist who was born to a poor Hindu family in Allahdino Shah village in Sindh, Pakistan. She was married off at the age of 16 into a family that was bonded to their landlord. Her experiences of being a slave and being beaten by her captors inspired her to campaign for the freedom of others. In 2013, she ran as an independent candidate in the Hyderabad provincial elections. She was able to gain her freedom after standing up to the authorities and with the help of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Hyderabad. Oxfam have also helped to promote her ideas and give her the confidence she needs to voice her concerns. She won the Frederick Douglass Freedom Award by the Free the Slaves organization in 2019. Impressively, she went on to build the Azad Nagar settlement that provides shelter to freed bonded labourers who would live there temporarily as they began their new lives.
88. Nazeen Baloch: Filmmaker
After studying and working for five years abroad, Mashall came back to Pakistan to start a position at Saaf Pani, a social enterprise that provided purifiers to the country’s 16 million people living without clean water. In 2013, she went on to create the Reading Room Project, a social enterprise committed to unleashing the high potential of Pakistan’s low-income children by creating supportive learning environments and harnessing the power of the Internet. Her main goal has been to make computer studies accessible to all kinds of families. In 2014, Mashall also became an Acumen Pakistan Fellow. We are so impressed by her relentless efforts to provided low income families of Pakistan with a better future!
86. Mallak Faisal Zafar: Figure Skater
Mallak stepped into figure skating when she was only 5 years old. Due to lack of facilities in Pakistan, she was unable to pursue her dreams of becoming a figure skater. However, now at the age of 12, she has won her first international award in Austria. In a competition with over 200 participants from countries like Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Mallak won first position in the Basic Novice Girls II category at the 24th International Eiscup Innsbruck 2019 for her beautiful display. According to reports, the athlete’s ultimate goal is to represent Pakistan at the Winter Olympics. We couldn’t be more proud of her!
85. Syeda Ghulam Fatima: Human and Labour Rights Activitist
Fatima is a Pakistani human rights activist who is known for her work relating to ending bonded labour in brick kilns (one of the most contaminating forms of producing bricks). Her active campaigning for worker’s rights has led her to release more than 80,000 bonded laborers from all provinces in Pakistan. She has further trained more than 600 women in alternative skills for poverty reduction. In 2015, Fatima was awarded a Clinton Global Citizen Award for “leadership in civil society” and was also one of the four finalists nominated for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.
84. Twinkle Sohail: Powerlifter
83. Meena Gabeena:
Meena is the founder of Meenay Las, an NGO aiming for “A green and peaceful planet with social, political and economic equality for all.” The organization covers four core areas i.e. humanitarian assistance, education, environmentally responsible and socially equitable rural development and advocacy. There is a special focus on providing women with good quality education and empowering them by setting up wells to provide sustainable livelihoods for their families. Due to her efforts there have been 4 solar panel schools set up in rural areas in Pakistan for 370 children, a sewing centre for women and shelters for approximately 12,970 people. We are so inspired by her incredible initiative to be environmentally responsible and to take action against human rights injustices/oppression. Btw, Meena teaches yoga too!
82. Zahida Kazmi: Entrepreneur
Zahida was born into a conservative and patriarchal family. In 1992, when her husband passed away, she was only 33 years old and had six children to feed. She chose to take matters into her own hands and became a taxi driver, Pakistan’s first female driver, to support her family. She has served as chairman of the All Pakistan Yellow Cab Federation since then. She is a brilliant example for independent women who are emblems of strength and are brave enough to take up jobs typically reserved for men in the country.
81. Nergis Mavalvala: Astrophysicist
Karachi-born quantum astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala is known for her role in the first observation of gravitational waves. She is best known for her work on the detection of gravitational waves in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project. Nergis is currently the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she is also the Associate Head of the Department of Physics. Her brilliance has not gone unnoticed as she has been one of the recipients of the Great Immigrants award presented by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Nergis won the first Lahore Technology Award launched by Information Technology University. She was also recognised by NOGLSTP as the LGBTQ Scientist of the Year in 2014.
80. Noorena Shams: Sportsperson
Noorena is a Pakistani sportsperson who has been a cyclist, a cricketer and a squash player. She’s the first ever cyclist to win a silver medal for Pakistan in the Junior Olympics. She also has played different sports winning 63 gold medals, 24 silver medals and 5 bronze medals and has been among the Top 40 Asian Junior Squash Players. She is also currently ranked 209 in the world. If that wasn’t enough, she is regarded as the youngest South Asian to ever win a silver medal in the Junior Olympics. We love that her passion has led her to achieve such incredible things!
79. Tanzila Khan: Motivational speaker and activist
Author, international motivational speaker and disability rights activist, Tanzila Khan is a remarkable woman in many ways. She has launched an app called Girly Things that aims to deliver sanitary napkins to women at home and in emergency situations. According to Images, the app will also be offering contraceptives in the future as Tanzila recognizes that it can become uncomfortable for women to buy them in public. She has written books such as A Story of Mexico and The Perfect Situation and is also a soft skills trainer for the development and corporate sector. She has proven with all her achievements that nothing can stand in the way of a woman who dares to dream big.
78. Shazia Perveen: Firefighter
Shazia is Pakistan’s first ever female firefighter who believes that women can tackle any profession they like if they strive for it. Having gone through grueling training sessions for seven months with Punjab Emergency Services, she stands as an amazing representation of hard work and determination. According to Parhlo, she has even outdone several men in this training who found it to be too tough and dropped out, eventually getting selected as a professional firefighter in 2010. She has been saving lives ever since and we couldn’t be more proud of her!
77. Ayesha Farooq: Fighter Pilot
In 2013, she became Pakistan’s first woman to become a fighter pilot in the Pakistan Air Force. She is also one of the 19 women who have become pilots in the Pakistan Air Force over the last decade. Along with her, there are only five other female fighter pilots that have yet to qualify for combat. Ayesha currently flies missions in a Chinese-made Chengdu J-7 fighter jet. She is the sole woman to do so, alongside her 24 male colleagues in Squadron 20. In a country that is still struggling with allowing women to work in diverse fields, she is paving the way for women to gain confidence and follow their dreams by standing as a brilliant example of what women are capable of. We couldn’t be more proud of her!
76. Jehan Ara: Social Entrepreneur
Jehan is the president of P@SHA which is the sole non-profit organization that focuses on helping the information technology industry in Pakistan to be heard and recognized in the global arena. The incubator of P@SHA, known as The Nest I/O, has achieved phenomenal success under her mentorship by incubating up to 137 startups! She is often referred to as the ‘Big Bird’ by her ‘nestlings’ at the company. Jehan has previously been invited to speak at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley as well as the Social Good Summit of UNDP Pakistan. In an interview with UNDP, she stated that she aims to provide the mentorship and support that young entrepreneurs in Pakistan need. We couldn’t be more proud of her!
75. Kalsoom Lakhani: Social Impact Entrepreneur
Kalsoom is the founder and CEO of Invest2Innovate which is an organization designed to support startup communities in growth markets in Pakistan. She has worked with and trained young entrepreneurs from all over the world, namely: Cambodia, Ireland, Bangladesh, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. She has also held talks and spoken at reputable venues such as the World Economic Forum, U.S. State Department, the US Chamber of Commerce as well as the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. She has been a co-ambassador for Sandbox that is a global network of innovators under 30 and was also a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. She has been named an Ashoka Changemakers/ American Express Emerging Innovator for 2013. In addition, in a description on TechJuice she has stated that she has a ‘deep passion for building this country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem’ and according to her, her startup has done brilliantly over the years by raising over $1 million in funding and creating almost 1000 jobs. Wow!
74. Sana Khurshid: Lawyer
Sana is a lawyer, human’s rights activist and an advocate for disability. She has done her LL.B and LL.M. from the University of London and is currently the Spine Ambassador for the Spinal Centre at Ghurki Trust Hospital. She claims that it is very crucial to make Pakistan disabled friendly through ‘universal design’ in the construction mapping of the country. In an interview she has voiced that “the first step is access” i.e. making spaces for people with special needs accessible, for instance for a wheelchair user, she asks that a ramp must be available everywhere. We support her movement to cater to an ignored sector of community in Pakistan and applaud her mission to allow comfortable mobility for disabled persons without an active dependence on others.
73. Gulalai Ismail: Human rights activist
Gulalai Ismail is a Pashtun human’s rights activist who is the chairperson of an NGO called Aware Girls that has stated its aim is “to strengthen the leadership capacity of young women enabling them to act as agents of social change and women empowerment in their communities.” Aware Girls focusses on addressing issues mainly related to violence against women and young girls, lack of educational opportunities and lack of access to sexual and reproductive health resources. Gulalai is also the recipient of the International Humanist of the Year Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, as well as the Foundation Chirac Peace Prize for the Prevention of Conflict. We are so proud of her for working towards promoting peace as well as empowering women in the conferences that she speaks at both locally and internationally.
72. Maliha Abidi: Artist/ Author
Maliha Abidi is an incredible young woman working towards highlighting an important cause and putting the spotlight on those who truly deserve it. She the author and artist of Pakistan for Women, an illustrated book celebrating the contributions of over 50 women to Pakistan. The book features Malala Yousafzai, Asma Jahangir, Abida Parveen and many more. At only 23, she managed to self-publish and fund the book, while studying neuroscience at the University of Sussex. We love a woman who lifts other women and empowers them. “These women are the reason Pakistan is what is it today,” she told BBC in an interview. We hope Maliha has saved herself a spot on her list of incredible Pakistani women; it’s what she deserves.
71. Sheherzade Noor Peerzada: Social media sensation
Better known as ‘Baji Bombastic’, she is taking social media by storm through her hilarious videos targetting problematic opinions that Pakistani society may have about people. In an interview with Mangobaaz she claims that Baji’s character is meant to “probe the audience to rethink how they see things, to rethink how we label and categorize people around us every day“. Her progressive view on accepting oneself without any altering according to society is what we need to see more of in this day and age. We love her message to all Pakistanis to stop judging, to accept your own mother tongue and be proud of yourself regardless of what language you can speak and how you can speak it!
70. Namira Salim: Explorer
A Pakistani explorer who is the first Pakistani ever to have reached South Pole in 2008 and the North Pole in 2017. She is also the first Asian to skydive over Mount Everest during First Everest Skydives 2008. It doesn’t stop there! She is also a founder of Founder of SpaceTrust which is a non-profit initiative that aims to promote Space as the New Frontier for Peace. Due to her adventurous and strong spirit she was also appointed by the Ministry of Tourism to serve as Honorary Ambassador of Tourism for Pakistan. Namira, the incredibly impressive woman that she is, is also the first and only Pakistani member of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic commercial space liner and proceeded to be short-listed to travel into space. The news of her being the first Pakistani to visit space became viral online last week and we couldn’t be more proud of her!
69: Biryani Brothers: Musicians
A Pakistani band comprising of the duo that is vocalist Natasha Noorani and guitarist Zahra Paracha. These women have revolutionized Pakistani music by exploring an alternative route with music. Their lyrics are relevant to the modern Pakistani woman and the harmony of their tracks mimics an 80’s vibe that we love. The visuals of their music video spark nostalgia as they recreate vintage PTV programming. These women are also the founders of Lahore Music Meet (LMM) that is a festival intended to teach, discuss and practice music. They really are showing us how retro music is done in the modern Pakistani music scene and we’re here for it!
Check out their hit debut song “Ikisvi Sadi” at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dC95F06jkZI
68: Khalida Brohi: Entrepreneur, activist and author
Khalida Brohi is a force to be reckoned with. She is the founder of Sughar Foundation, a non-profit that aims to empower tribal and rural women in Pakistan by providing them with opportunities to start and sustain businesses. The powerhouse has been named among Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and NewsWeek’s 25 under 25 Women of Impact, as well as several other national and international awards and recognition. She has also spoken at TEDGlobal, Davos, World Affairs Council and more. As if that wasn’t enough, Khalida has authored the book, ‘I Should Have Honour’, a memoir of her life and her journey for women’s rights in Pakistan. Crush is an understatement. We are in awe of the 29-year-old. More power to you, Khalida!
67. Dr Erum Sattar: Water and law policy expert
Dr Erum Sattar is a Harvard Law School graduate. She is the past Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Asia Quarterly, the journal of the Harvard Asia Center, and co-founded the Water Law Study Group at Harvard Law School. She has attended several conferences such as the recent “Code Blue Conference” in Habib University and “Pakistan’s Lifeline: Management and Regulations of Indus Water” event at IBA. She actively speaks about the Water crisis in Pakistan and highlights issues relating to water rights and the distribution of water within the country. We are so proud of her extensive research into such a significant sector of change and applaud her efforts to deliberate solutions collectively, through her impressive academic achievements and by inspiring academic youths within Pakistan to study as well as to work on this issue.
66. Sara Saeed Khurram: Doctor-preneur
Sara Saeed Khurram is CEO and Co-founder of Sehat Kahani, a telehealth startup that is focused on connecting female doctors (who gave up their careers due to marriage or having children) back into practicing their careers from home. These home-based doctors can hold video conference calls with patients that are unable to physically meet doctors. This initiative by Sara has achieved noticeable recognition; she has won an APTECH Young Entrepreneurs award and has also been featured in a BBC documentary. She is also the first woman in Pakistan to receive a Rolex Award. We are so proud of her for reviving female doctor’s careers through Sehat Kahani that also holds female empowerment training-wow!
65. Ismat Raza ShahJahan: Political/social activist
Ismat Raza ShahJahan is a Deputy General Secretary of the Awami Workers Party that was founded in November 2012. Through this party she aims to provide aid to the ignored societies in Pakistan by unifying their struggles. These include the struggles of workers, peasants, students, women and ethnic religious minorities. This year she launched her own feminist-socialist magazine by the name of “Narivaad” that details the importance of looking after the rights of women. We love her initiative to help support the minorities of Pakistan!
64. Azima Dhanjee: Business owner/social activist
Azima Dhanjee is bridging the communication gap for the deaf community in Pakistan. She started her own company called ConnectHear in 2017 which provides sign language interpretation services. She is one of the first members of the youth in Pakistan to take this step to connect the minority with the rest of society. Her motivation for this start-up was none other than her parents who were both deaf. She narrates her story: “Growing up, I saw my parents struggle with communicating with the outside world. I saw raw talent go unrecognized because of the barrier that is language.” We are so proud of her for acting as the voice for a sector of society that goes ignored and is providing them the opportunity to express themselves and have their concerns heard in times of need. Check out their website here: http://connecthear.org/.
They also offer sign language classes. Details on their facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/connecthearofficial/
63. Iram Parveen Bilal: Filmmaker
Physics Olympian turned filmmaker Iram Parveen Bilal is first female filmmaker of Pakistan to make it to Cannes. Her film Wakhri, based on a social media star in Pakistan, was selected at the 2019 Cannes L’Atelier and was part of the 2018 Locarno’s Open Doors Hub financing market. Raised in Nigeria and Pakistan, Iram has a long list of films to her name. For obvious reasons, she’s our woman crush this week but mostly for paving the way for women in the film industry in Pakistan! Check out her website here: https://www.iramparveenbilal.com
62. Naiha J. Eiman: Blogger/influencer
Naiha J. Eiman is your body-positivity, anti-shadism, brown-and-proud dream come true. She blogs on Instagram as ‘Rebellious Brownie’, and lives up to the name, quite honestly. She often puts up beautiful posts of her beautiful self, encouraging her followers to shun problematic beauty standards in our society such as our obsession with fair skin. She also has killer style and is always supporting other women who blog. Embrace your true selves people, because as Naiha puts it, fair isn’t the only kind of lovely.
61. Kanwal Ahmed: Founder of Soul Sisters
In the span of a few years, Kanwal Ahmed has garnered a huge name for herself. Back in 2013, she started a Facebook group called Soul Sisters Pakistan wherein she encouraged women to share their problems as well as things that make them happy. She also offered anonymity to women who choose not to name themselves and provide them a safe space to present their concerns. Her efforts were proven fruitful when she was invited to the US by Facebook under the Facebook Community Program. They later gave her funds to initiate a program that would help her Facebook community. Kanwal then started a digital talk show called Conversations with Kanwal, highlighting the stories of some of the women from Soul Sisters Pakistan and helping those stories reach a wider audience and hopefully bring a positive change in society.
60: Shumaila Shahani: Lawyer
Here’s a phenomenal and passionate woman, Shumaila Shahani, every girl should look up to! Shahani is a lawyer based in Karachi. She is a queer feminist, who has been taking on many battles to disrupt the patriarchy in the system. Be it rattling sexism in the court, or galvanizing action for feminist policies or grassroots support, Shahani is doing it all. It goes without saying that women like her are a need of the hour for the Pakistani society. We’re rooting for you, Shumaila! Keep speaking and fighting the patriarchy as you are!
59. Natasha Japanwala: Writer & Teacher
This week we’re crushing on uber-cool and incredibly smart Karachi-based writer and teacher Natasha Japanwala. She is an Ivy League graduate and is now making an impact in the lives of children in Pakistan. Through her writing classes, she takes children and teenagers on adventures within themselves, exploring their complex emotions and thoughts. An avid book reader, Natasha encourages people to pay attention to words to build a better world. Follow her, if you want reviews of the books she’s been reading. Natasha has written extensively for local and international publications and is also behind ‘Wayfinding‘, which is an online newsletter.
58: Baemisaal: Illustrator
If your art is not political, is it even art? This illustrator and lifestyle blogger based in Lahore who goes by the name Baemisaal is busy disrupting the toxic beauty standards set for women. She runs an Instagram blog called “Baemisaal”, where she describes it as the “Diary Of A Crazy Dysfunctional PlusSized Artist”. She is an inspiration for every girl and every woman that struggles in her body. Her work will not only make you fall in love with her, but it will also empower you to fall in love with yourself. Three cheers for you!!!
57: Yusra Amjad: Poet/Comic
She will make you laugh and she will make you cry, all in one go. Yusra Amjad is a Lahore-based poet, writer and stand-up comedian. She organises and performs with the Auratnaak Lahore troupe — which she co-founded. Amjad’s feminist comedy and poetry is edge and relatable for every desi woman out there. This mighty feminist also teaches at a girls’ college in Lahore. She is empowering Pakistan’s future, and her hard work makes it look very, very bright.
56. Tooba Syed: Political Activist/Teacher
Tooba Syed is hope for this country, and hope for the left in this country. She is a member of the Women Democratic Front, and is involved in grassroots activism where she engages with people, organises and mobilises them to take action. She is also visiting faculty at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. Writing frequently and speaking up on different social issue, she is a true catalyst for change.
55. Anita Karim: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Athlete
Anita Karim is Pakistan’s first MMA athlete. In February 2019, she defeated her Indonesian opponent Gita Suharsono in One Warrior Series held in Singapore. Her south-paw strike against her opponent earned her a winning through a unanimous decision of three judges. Hailing from Hunza, Anita has also previously bagged two gold medals at Pakistan Grappling Challenge (PGC). Still considered a very male-dominated sport, Anita is setting new precedents in martial arts and making Pakistan proud. Go break them, Anita!
54. Aradhiya Khan: Trans Activist
This week we’re rooting for Aradhiya Khan for her relentless struggle for transgender persons’ rights in Pakistan. At the age of 20, she is among the youngest human right activist in Pakistan. At a time when inclusion of trans people in mainstream workforce is still hard to find, she is working as an assistant coordinator at Akhuwat, a non-profit that works to empower economically marginalised families. Aradhiya frequently visits schools and universities and introduces gender-based conversations. She’s breaking many stereotypes for trans people. More power to her!
53. Shahana Khan Khalil: Actor
Artist Shahana Khan Khalil has a theatre and production background. Khalil launched her acting career by debuting in the internationally acclaimed ‘Slackistan’. Staying true to her passion, she co-founded “Kuch Khaas – Centre for Arts, Culture & Dialogue” in her hometown Islamabad, which is a popular go-to spot for expression and art in the capital. Khalil has also worked as the International Production Manager for Pakistan’s biggest television production – Coke Studio in its sixth season with the production running in seven countries. This artist is a powerhouse!
52: Amna Abbas: Artist/ Illustrator
We’re in awe of Amna Abbas’s animations and illustrations on her Instagram account. He illustrations are clever, quirky and carry a strong message. Abbas’ art is a combination of design, skill and observation and she really hits the nail in the coffin by speaking for digital audiences. May your art take you to newer heights, Amna! Keep inspiring us!
51: Samina Baig: Mountaineer, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador
This week, we’re looking up (quite literally) to Samina Baig, who became the first Pakistani woman to climb Mount Everest in July 2013. She is also the first Pakistani woman to have scaled all seven highest peak in the seven continents! Meanwhile, we can barely make it out of our house. Baig was appointed as the national goodwill ambassador by United Nations Development Programme a year ago. She will soon be leading the first ever Pakistani women’s expedition team to scale Mount Everest. May you keep reaching higher and higher grounds, Samina! We’ll be cheering on the whole way.
50. Laaleen Sukhera: Writer, Consultant, Media Professional
This week we are looking up to Laaleen Sukhera for her relentless struggle for herself and her kids. Sukhera has been fighting for her right to divorce for months and we can’t help but be in awe of her struggle to get justice. Laaleen is also editor of Austenistan, a collection of seven short, witty and inspiring stories on contemporary Pakistan set against the backdrop of Jane Austen novels. A truly creative take on Pakistani society, the book is an amazing read. Here’s to Laaleen’s resilience, talents and her amazing energy. You go get them, girl!
49. Imaan Sheikh: Writer
Fierce, unapologetic and rib-ticklingly funny, Imaan has struck a chord with many young desis with her relateable stories and viral memes. She started her career in Pakistan and moved on to BuzzfeedIndia, reaching a global audience, all in a short span of time. Courtesy: her hard work and sharp wit. She’ll praise you when you deserve it but shut you up if you are a complete moron. If you want a real review of the latest Bollywood flick or to know how complicated brown families are, Imaan is your go-to person. Heck she’ll even decode all the 90s movies for you and prove how problematic some of they are in this day and age. Plus point: She’s a feminist. We’ve been crushing for a long time and won’t stop any time soon.
48. Amna Raheel: Motivational speaker
This young achiever knows no bounds. Amna Raheel was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when she was two years old. But with the support of her family and her own resilience, she is now a gold medalist from IoBM and is pursuing an MBA from the same university. Raheel lives her life to the fullest. She has swum with dolphins, ridden an elephant in Thailand and bicycled on the roads. There’s no stopping her!
47. Hajra Khan: Football player
Captain of Pakistan’s women’s football team Hajra Khan is the first football player from the country to have been signed by an international football club. She has also been named in Forbes list of Women in Sport to Watch 2019. The star footballer recently garnered attention when she courageously spoke about her struggle with depression. We want to be her! #Goals
46. Fareshteh Aslam: CEO
Journalist-turned-PR guru Fareshteh Aslam is a powerhouse in herself and a force to reckoned with. She is currently leading Talking Point, a PR and Communications company, as the CEO. She has also been working as an award manager for Lux Style Awards. In short: she keeps numerous feathers in her cap. We couldn’t be more in awe of her! Follow her on Instagram here:
45. Shireen Zafar: Teacher
This week we are rooting for Shireen Zafar, co-founder Hasan Shireen Foundation. Fifteen-year-old Shireen together with her brother Hasan, started teaching kids outside Cafe Clifton two years ago. They then expanded to Qayyumabad and Zamzama and were joined by two more teachers. Students themselves, the duo offer Rs.50, biscuits and juices to every kid who comes to them to study. We couldn’t be more proud of her!
44. Wasma Imran: Founder
Wasma Imran, co-founder of Recircle Cup, is a trailblazer, pioneering Pakistan’s first menstrual cup company. Wasma, with her partner Mahin Khan, is breaking barriers and normalising conversations around menstruation. The duo is doing so by reducing waste and improving menstrual hygiene via the menstrual cup, a healthy, pocket-friendly and eco-friendly alternative to pads, tampons and cloth etc. Now, who doesn’t love an eco-friendly, millennial, feminist, woman entrepreneur? Get it, girl!
43. Saba Khalid: Founder/writer
This week, our #WomanCrush is Saba Khalid, a journalist, blogger and founder of Aurat Raaj, which is a digital content platform for Pakistani women. Khalid has initiated a campaign called #RAAJIBAAJI, where an AI-infused bot will be addressing myths, confusion and questions on women reproductive health and hygiene in developing countries. We’re blown away by her social innovation! More power to you, Saba. Make us proud!
42. Dr Alina Nasir: Dentist
Cosmetic and Restorative Dentist Dr Alina Nasir. We love a woman who’s incredibly passionate about what they do and given her presence on social media as a #dentfluencer, you can tell dentistry isn’t just a job for Dr Alina! She’s made it her life’s mission to make everyone smile (literally) and we can’t help doing so ourselves!
41. Sana Mir: Cricketer
The world is finally catching up! Our favourite cricketer and the former captain of Pakistan women’s cricket team just became the top-ranked ODI bowler. Mir serves as inspiration for women and girls all over the country not just on the field but off it as well. She often speaks about gender disparity and double standards, and we are here for it! Lead the way, cap.
40. Nida Kirmani: Professor/Sociologist
A feminist sociologist, Nida Kirmani teaches sociology at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and is a badass political analyst on social media. Kirmani has also authored a number of books on gender and other subjects.
39. Alizeh Valjee
We can’t even begin to list down everything Alizeh Valjee manages to do in a week. She is the co-founder of Care For Health and Taskeen, two organizations working on creating a dialogue around the importance of mental health in Pakistan, runs her private practice as a therapist, teaches yoga and offers dance mandala workshops regularly!
38. Hiba Thobani: Lawyer
A lawyer by profession, Thobani is co-founder of Qaaf Se Qanoon, a not for profit legal aid initiative by lawyers and law students of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, and provides pro bono legal assistance to victims of sexual harassment. Way to go!
37. Sara Malkani: Lawyer
Sara Malkani is a Sindh High Court advocate, the advocacy advisor for Center for Reproductive Rights in New York and a writer. She has written on topics such as child marriages, honour killings as well as the Meesha Shafi-Ali Zafar sexual harassment case. She’s fighting the good fight on behalf of all women and we salute her for it.
36. Aneela Darbar: Neurosurgeon
She is Pakistan’s first US-trained female neurosurgeon who currently works as an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Agha Khan University. She specialises in minimally invasive endoscopic surgery, and what can we say? She’s totally taken over our hearts and minds (read:brains)!
35. Naween Mangi: Journalist
Naween Mangi is a journalism guru in Pakistan. She has served as Pakistan bureau chief of Bloomberg News and spent a decade covering companies, markets and the economy; reporting on issues, conducting interviews with top officials and writing profiles and features.
Naween also founded Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust to provide deserving families with health, education and basic necessities in Sindh. More power to you, Naween!
34. Syeda Anfas Ali Shah: Activist
Syeda Anfas Ali Shah is a social activist who runs the Ocean Welfare Organization that aims to provide free of cost education to underprivileged children. She’s responsible for the famous Footpath School that has so far taught hundreds of street children.
33. Aisha Gazdar: Filmmaker
Aisha Gazdar is an award-winning filmmaker who has produced documentaries on women and gender in Pakistan. She is a researcher and a journalist whose work revolves around women development. She is currently associated with the Films d’Art production house. Her documentary on ‘honour killings’ titled The Honour Deception has received international recognition. She is our latest crush for obvious reasons. Here’s to women who empower other women.
32. Mahwash Ajaz: Writer
She’s one of the most badass writers of our time. She describes herself on Twitter as “Purani Pakistani. Feminist liberal fascist writer, YouTuber, Supermom & biryani connoisseur.” Her political commentary is so apt it puts all else to shame. The truth is she’s crushing it in real life and we’re crushing on her.
31. Zehra Khan
Well for starters, she leads the Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) that makes thousands of women in Sindh aware of their due rights. Moreover, Zehra is said to have engaged a number working class women who passionately participated in a massive Aurat March rally held in Karachi this year. Her work also led the Sindh government to pass the Sindh Home Based Workers Bill (2018) in May. The bill not only protects female workers and their rights but also extends to home-based workers, ensuring they are considered equal employees with all rights, maternity leaves and other basic facilities. Kudos to Zehra and her organisation. Seriously, what’s not to crush over?
30. Mandana Noor: Director/Designer/Actor
She’s a director, photographer, graphic designer and actor. Although Ali Noor is the one who steals the limelight most of the time, we can’t help but crush over his better half.
29. Amna Mawaz Khan: Dancer
She is a classical dancer who specialises in Bharatanatyam and a really good one. Did you know that Khan began training at the age of 11? Yep, that’s right. That’s some dedication. She now performs and teaches dance and is also a left-wing political worker and activist. What’s not to crush over?
28. Amtul Baweja: Comedian/Blogger
She’s a theater artist, social activist, comedian but mostly importantly a terrific travel blogger. She and her better half run a blog called ‘Patangeer’ and call themselves the travel couple. And we can’t stop staring at her breathtaking photos.
27. Fauzia Zafar: Blogger
A blogger by profession, Fauzia Zafar has taken over Instagram with her very relatable blog, called Rants of a Desi Bride. It started in 2016, when she was about to get married and her followers now read about her very relatable posts that shed light on what married life is all about. Through her Insta account, she documents her travels, gives advice to her followers and shares snippets of her adorable relationship with her husband.
26. Mehreen Jabbar: Filmmaker
She’s one of the most successful filmmakers in the country, known best for her 2008 film Ramchand Pakistani. Among her other award-winning short films and TV dramas are Daughters of the Late Colonel, Beauty Parlor, Laal Baig (Cockroach), Harjai (Betrayal) and ‘Doraha‘ (Crossroads). She is also part of the advisory board of The South Asian Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Television. We are in awe and couldn’t be more proud!
25. Anam Abbas: Filmmaker
She’s an independent filmmaker, best known for a Pakistani webseries Ladies Only, which she directs and produces. Not only that, she’s also founding member of Documentary Association of Pakistan (DAP). And in the midst of it all, she finds the time to maintain a very hip Instagram presence. We’re loving her feed, what about you?
24. Natalia Gul Jilani Baghdadi: Dentist/Actor
She’s a dentist and a theatre actor. Wow, talk about diversity. She’s fabulous at stand up comedy and performs with the popular Khawatoons. Her Instagram bio also tells us that she’s a writer, voice over artist and a rotarian. Is there anything she can’t do?
23. Ayesha Tariq: Comedian/Author/Illustrator
She’s a comedian, an illustrator and the author of Sarah: The Suppressed Anger of the Obedient Pakistani Daughter. We’ve seen her perform with the Khawatoons and we’ve seen her artwork as well. She’s brilliant!
22. Quratulain Binte Khalid: Photographer
Reason: She’s a commercial and lifestyle photographer. Also, a lover of books, dogs, food and all things amazing. We love how she does portraits and self-portraits. Recently, the travel bug in her took her to Baku and we were wowed.
21. Rehmat Ajmal: Model/designer
She’s a textile designer, model and theatre performer who has studied from the National College of Arts. Also, her Instagram bio says she’s a ‘smasher of patriarchy’. So basically everything about her is making us go like: “Preach sista!”
20. Amafah Mubashir: Yogi
Reason: It would be an understatement to say that her Instagram is breathtaking. Need any guidelines on yoga? Mubashir should be your go-to person. She’s just so good at what she does. Seriously, it makes us want to enroll in her yoga classes.
19. Mariam Saleem Khan: Actor
She’s an actor and writer, which is a terrific combination. Also, if you haven’t had a chance to scroll through her Instagram, just do it now. Her videos are hilarious.
18. Madeeha Syed: Journalist
Reason: She’s not only a journalist and an award-winning documentary filmmaker but possesses many other talents as well and her Instagram account proves it. Don’t believe us? Go check out for yourselves. You’ll be in awe.
17. Natasha Zubair: Photographer
Reason: Her Instagram bio states that she’s a lover of 35mm film, and tbh we are lovers of her photos. Zubair is a photographer and entrepreneur who also makes the coolest stationary with recycled paper. What’s not to love about her?
16. Alycia Dias: Singer
She’s the girl with the golden voice. Remember the official soundtrack (OST) from the Sanam Jung and Sarwat Gilani starrer drama Dil-e-Muztar? Yup, Dias sang that and a bunch of other melodious OSTs for various Pakistani television dramas. At the age of 17, she participated in a local reality show and became a semi-finalist. Pretty cool, isn’t she?
15. Nausheen Dadabhoy: Cinamatographer
How many cinematographers in Pakistan are women? Nausheen is one of a kind. We’ve all seen her work in Mehreen Jabbar’s Jackson Heights, Iram Bilal Perveen’s Josh and Oscar-nominated short film La Femme et le TGV [Railroad Lady]. More power to you, Nausheen.
14. Huma Mobin
Remember the real life ‘Queen,’ whose solo honeymoon took the internet by storm? Not only that, she also modeled for a local clothing brand while she was pregnant. You go girl!
13. Eman Suleman: Model
Reason: The model is part of Auratnaak troupe and was involved in the bloodied pads project in BNU Lahore to raise a discussion on periods. Brains, beauty and a sense of humour, what’s not to like?
12. Natasha Baig: Singer
Reason: Natasha’s strong voice sets her apart from all the new and upcoming singers in our industry. Plus, she sang for the #MeinBhi campaign which makes her pretty damn awesome.
11. Faiza Saleem: Comedian /Actor
Reason: Faiza is Pakistan’s first social media entertainer. We love how much she stresses on the fact that she was her own inspiration and how essential it is to be original. Also, she makes us laugh till it hurts.
10. Zenith Irfan: Traveler
Reason: Well, because she’s a total badass. Who else aspires to travel the world on a bike? We have trouble aspiring to get out of bed the next day, tbh.
9. Sanam Maher: Journalist
Reason: Because she’s hilarious and smart. She’s a journalist and a soon to be published author. Sanam is currently working on a book on the late Qandeel Baloch and we can’t wait to get our hands on it.
8. Ayesha Chundrigarh: Founder, ACF
Reason: Ayesha is a champion of animal rights in Pakistan – a job not many would be willing to take up. She is successfully running the most well-known animal shelter in Karachi. Follow them here: @acfanimalrescueofficial
7. Sadia Khatri: Activist
Reason: Part of Girls at Dhabas, Sadia is partly responsible for the recently revived movement of reclaiming public spaces for women, and continues to be a strong and loud voice in the movement for gender equality; a force to be reckoned with.
6. Saheefa Jabbar: Model
Reason: Model of the moment, Saheefa has a girl-next-door look but she’s not your conventional “Pakistani model”. She is confident, edgy and effortlessly pulls off a haircut not many would dare to get.
5. Noorulain Ali: Photographer
Reason: Hands-down one of the coolest wedding photographer in Pakistan. Would get married just to have her take photos. Just kidding, don’t have the budget. Follow her @noorulainali and prepare to be wowed.
4. Shehzil Malik: Illustrator/Designer
Reason: Just check out her Instagram to see what we’re talking about. *Drooling while browsing*
3. Samya Arif: Illustrator/Designer
Reason: Even Coldplay, yes as in Yellow, as in Chris Martin, is a fan. Samya has swiftly risen as one of the country’s best graphic designers. Follow her now.
2. Haya Fatima Iqbal: Documentary film-maker
Reason: Haya has worked as a producer of Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar and emmy winning documentaries and has quickly become a role model for aspiring film-makers. We couldn’t be more proud.
1. Zainab Abbas: Sports journalist
Reason: Definitely the most popular sports journalists these days, Zainab’s performance never disappoints. She makes us interested in matches we weren’t even planning on watching.