10 Pakistani Women who made Headlines and for Good Reason

10 Pakistani Women who made Headlines and for Good Reason

From ASP Shehrbano's fearless intervention in Lahore averting a potential calamity to Nadia Jamil’s unrelenting protest against child sexual abuse to businesswoman Shaista Asif receiving recognition from Forbes, the years 2023-2024 were marked by strong women determined to change the world. Join us as we delve into the inspiring stories of these women who, through their courage and accomplishments, contribute to reshaping the narrative of women's roles in Pakistan.

1. ASP Shehrbano Naqvi

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Shehrbano Naqvi, stationed at Gulberg Circle, bravely thwarted a potential mob attack on a young woman in Lahore. The incident, fueled by confusion and miscommunication regarding the Arabic calligraphy on the woman's dress, was skillfully diffused by the lady cop. Refusing to disclose the woman's identity, she clarified that the calligraphy did not contain Quranic verses and belonged to a foreign Muslim country's brand. From the internet to local and international media outlets, ASP Shehrbano became a figure of daring and hope in a society where patriarchal violence and the audacity to point fingers at women’s clothing remains a distressing reality.

2. Maryam Nawaz

As the general election of 2024 rounded up with final results pouring in, Maryam Nawaz, a prominent leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), was elected as Punjab's Chief Minister—the first woman to hold this position in the country. Maryam secured a resounding victory, defeating the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed candidate, Rana Aftab Ahmad Khan, with an overwhelming 220 votes. While embroiled in deep controversy and rigging allegations, Maryam's victory has been lauded by many as an unprecedented win for women and a step forward for gender inclusivity in Pakistani politics.

3. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Renowned Pakistani filmmaker behind Oscar-winning documentary shorts Saving Face and A Girl in the River, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is set to direct a new Star Wars film, marking a groundbreaking moment for the franchise. Co-writing the script with Damon Lindelof, Obaid-Chinoy's film is set after the events of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker and features Daisy Ridley reprising her role as Rey. This project makes Sharmeen the first woman and person of color to direct a Star Wars film, contributing to a series of milestones for the iconic franchise.

4. Nadia Jamil

Celebrated veteran Pakistani actor Nadia Jamil has made her name in showbiz for her craft but her marvels go beyond the screen. With her candid retellings of her painful experience of child sexual abuse, the actor has made it her mission to shed light on the prevalent societal issue. Urging the need for awareness, prevention and support for survivors, Nadia underlines the grim reality she faced like countless others. Disclosing her traumatic ordeal and the subsequent healing process, the actor has underscored how CSA gained significance in light of the Kasur incident, inspiring her to speak out and outline practical measures for prevention, including poverty alleviation, education, social awareness campaigns and teaching children about boundaries.

5. Mahrang Baloch

Baloch Yekjehti Committee's (BYC) long march from Turbat to the provincial capital to protest the alleged extra-judicial killing of Balach Baloch by Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officials, led by Mahrang Baloch, gained international attention as images of baton-charging and arrests of Baloch protesters circulated. Mahrang, who is a general surgeon by profession and a human rights activist, became the face of a longstanding movement to seek justice for enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Balochistan. Even Joona singer Hasan Raheem expressed solidarity and hailed Mahrang as a “real hero”.

6. Naila Kiani

Naila Kiani, a former aerospace engineer, banker, and mother of two, achieved remarkable success in mountain climbing in 2023 by becoming one of the seven climbers globally to conquer multiple peaks in just six months. Kiani's accomplishments, including scaling Mount Everest, K2, Lhotse, Nanga Parbat, and more, were honoured by the President of Pakistan in December 2021. Her determination and achievements highlight her as a role model for aspiring climbers and adventurers - and women everywhere.

7. Namira Saleem

Namira Saleem is the first Pakistani to reach space through Virgin Galactic's mission, “Galactic 04.” Born in Karachi, Namira, the founder of Space Trust, had previously visited both the North and South Poles. The mission, launched from New Mexico's Spaceport America, took her and fellow space tourists on a suborbital journey, experiencing weightlessness and witnessing Earth against the backdrop of space. Namira carried the Pakistani flag with her, symbolising the nation's entry into space exploration, the sight is surely a magical one for many Pakistani children harbouring hopes to become an astronaut or simply an adventurer.

8. Erica Robin

In a historic moment, Pakistan participated for the first time in the Miss Universe beauty pageant, with Erica Robin representing the nation. Despite facing backlash, Erica made it to the top 20 contestants at the event held in San Salvador, El Salvador. The 24-year-old, hailing from Karachi and belonging to a Christian family, expressed pride in representing Pakistan but addressed the criticism, stating that it was rooted in misconceptions about the pageant as she continued through its various rounds, with grace and impeccable style.

9. Mussarat Hilali

Chief Justice Mussarat Hilali of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) took oath as a Supreme Court judge in July last year, becoming the second woman to be elevated to the apex court after Justice Ayesha Malik. Born in Peshawar, Justice Hilali’s other impressive milestones include her being the first woman additional advocate general of K-P from November 2001 to March 2004 and the first woman chairperson of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Environmental Protection Tribunal. She has also served as the first female ombudsperson for the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace.

10. Natasha Noorani

In Her Element - Natasha Noorani

Known for her avant-garde musings spanning R&B, pop, and neo-soul, Natasha Noorani’s debut LP, Ronaq was a fierce addition to the Pakistani music scene. Trained in ethnoecology in addition to being a singer and songwriter, Natasha harnesses her familiarity with the nuts and bolts of music with her fun, flamboyant, and carefree touch. Ronaq, a blend of catchy and accessible tunes, represents a paradigm shift in Natasha's musical journey, emphasising emotive genius and collaborative efforts. More than anything, Ronaq makes Natasha a trailblazer in local soundscapes and an inspiring icon for many women setting their eyes on a sonic career.