International Women’s Day

Every year on March 8th, people around the globe celebrate International Women’s Day in recognition of women rights and the ongoing fight for gender equality. It’s a time to reflect on how far we’ve come in the battle for women’s rights and to celebrate the victories we’ve already achieved. Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the struggles of marginalized women, such as Muslim women in Pakistan, and pay tribute to the many unsung heroines who have battled for women’s rights and equality.

Women are increasingly able to make their voices known in today’s society by utilizing various forms of digital media to do so. This year’s Women’s Day theme, “DigitALL,” emphasizes the importance of digital technology in advancing gender equality. Muslim women have played a significant role throughout history, making outstanding contributions to various fields. For instance, Fatima Al-Fihri founded the world’s first university, the University of Al Quaraouiyine, in Morocco in 859 AD. The institution is still in operation today and is considered one of the oldest universities globally, where Muslim women were among the early students. Muslim women’s achievements are not limited to the past; many contemporary women continue to break barriers and make significant contributions to society. One such example is Arfa Karim, who became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional at the age of nine in 2004. Arfa’s achievement earned her national and international recognition, and she subsequently received several awards, including the President’s Pride of Performance award in Pakistan. Arfa’s legacy continues to  inspire millions of young women worldwide to pursue careers in technology.

Another Muslim woman who has made an impact on the world stage is Malala Yousafzai, born in Pakistan in 1997. Malala became a vocal advocate for girls’ education and women’s rights, which made her a target for the Taliban. In 2012, at the age of 15, she was shot in the head while on her way to school. She miraculously survived the attack and has since become a global icon for the fight for girls’ education. In 2014, she became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Muslim women have also made significant strides in the political arena. Benazir Bhutto became the first Muslim woman to lead a Muslim-majority country when she was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988. Bhutto served two non-consecutive terms as Prime Minister before she was assassinated in 2007. She remains a significant inspiration for Muslim women worldwide and a reminder of the challenges that women face in male-dominated political environments.

In the business world, Muslim women have also made their mark. Rahima Banu, a Bangladeshi entrepreneur, became the first Muslim woman to start her own business in the 1950s. Banu started a jute processing company, which employed hundreds of workers and became a significant player in Bangladesh’s economy. Today, Muslim women around the world are taking on entrepreneurship and leading successful businesses in various industries, including tech, fashion, and finance.



Muslim women have also made significant contributions to the military. In 2020, Major General Nigar Johar became the first woman in Pakistan’s history to hold the rank of Lieutenant General, the highest rank for a woman in the country’s military. She has served in various leadership positions, including as the commandant of the Army Medical College in Pakistan. General Nigar’s appointment represents a significant milestone for women’s empowerment in Pakistan and serves as an inspiration for Muslim women around the world. Another such example is Dr. Hayat Sindi, a Saudi scientist who has dedicated her career to using technology to solve global health problems. Dr. Sindi is a biotechnologist who has developed technologies that can diagnose diseases quickly and inexpensively, making healthcare accessible to millions of people worldwide. She is also the founder of the Institute for Imagination and Ingenuity, which aims to inspire and support young innovators in the Arab world.

Many of these women are unsung and unacknowledged despite making significant contributions to society. We should remember and appreciate the Muslim women in Pakistan who are making a change in their communities through the use of technology as we celebrate Women’s Day and the “DigitALL” theme. Digital technology has not only facilitated positive change, but it has also given Muslim women in Pakistan a forum to voice their experiences and make meaningful connections with others. Women who have experienced domestic violence now have a place to go to feel safe talking about their experiences and getting assistance. The use of social media has also helped women find role models and allies who can encourage them in their pursuits.

To sum it up, our CEO Ms Ayesha Khan, a development economist, social activist, teacher, entrepreneur and political economy scholar believes that Muslim women have defied stereotypes by making significant contributions to various fields, including education, technology, politics, business, military, and science. As a child, Ms Ayesha was inclined to the Sufi school of thought. She started an ordinary life, but met with extraordinary circumstances that with her struggles she turned into successes, rising as a Muslim woman to become a lifelong learner in all disciplines. She is now acknowledged as a singular mother, teacher, mentor, serial entrepreneur, development economist, institutional development expert and leader. Among others she has sustainably established a knowledge-based nonprofit that acts as catalyst for knowledge building and sharing. She has pioneered the first action research organization in Pakistan in 2016. She also introduced the concept of frugal innovation in the implementation of development sector interventions with a level of transparency of work that is as yet unprecedented in Pakistan.

From Fatima Al-Fihri to General Nigar Johar to Arfa Karim and our very own Ayesha Khan, Muslim women have left their mark, and established a legacy that continues to inspire future generations of women around the world.

The DigitAll agenda is of critical importance and women in Pakistan have a long way to go too be included on such platforms and to use them with reduced  threats and greater opportunity for their individual and collective growth and national progress. Unfortunately, women are more likely to be the target of online harassment and threats when they speak out about problems that affect them. It’s not uncommon for people to feel unsafe when engaging in certain online activities, prompting them to reduce their participation or pursue additional security measures. Women’s Day “DigitALL,” subject rightly calls attention to the difficulties Muslim women in Pakistan face when trying to use technology for social good. Let us therefore stand in solidarity with all humanity equally by amplifying their voices. Together we need to share their stories, and fight for our collective rights to truly celebrate the unsung women heroes as well as the renowned legends. This strategy of solidarity best helps to contribute towards a  society in which all women, regardless of their backgrounds can exercise their basic rights and have access to the  resources they need to flourish and achieve their goals.