The Power of One
Nasim was married at 13, as is customary in her region of Pakistan, consigning most girls to lifelong illiteracy, poverty, and ill health. But Nasim was fortunate: her husband encouraged her continued education. Eventually she earned a Master’s degree and ran a private school for 95 girls. Wanting to make a bigger difference for girls, she boldly ran for office as a local council member to promote girls’ education.
Shocked at her audacity, Nasim’s family and neighbors shunned her and her supportive husband. Local politicians threatened to “have women’s thumbs cut off” if they voted. Despite the stigma and threats, Nasim continued to pursue a career in politics. She became a provincial leader in one of Pakistan’s major political parties and then competed for one of the National Assembly seats reserved under the constitution for women. But the party leaders gave the seat to a female relative of one of the party’s prefered male candidates, knowing she would be easier to control than Nasim.
“I’m very grateful to WILL for building my capacity and confidence and for the opportunities Search gave women to come to the forefront.”
Discouraged, Nasim heard about our Women’s Initiatives for Learning and Leadership (WILL) program. She joined other Pakistani women politicians to learn legislative processes and leadership skills in negotiation, dialogue, and media relations. Nasim credits Search for her new political confidence and is committed to political reform. She engaged her party chairman’s daughter to achieve a more transparent candidacy process. With other WILL women, she launched a national Women’s Caucus to help assert women’s interests across family and party lines. In addition, she founded Safar to promote education, health, and business skills among women, girls, and boys. Safar’s scholarships give poor students the same opportunity that Nasim’s husband provided her.
Recipient of the 2013 Women Human Rights Defender award, Nasim expressed her gratitude: “I’m very grateful to WILL for building my capacity and confidence and for the opportunities Search gave women to come to the forefront.”
By empowering one person, we give them the tools to impact thousands in their community, just as Nasim has altered the path for hundreds of girls and women in Pakistan.