Our very own Helen Keller- Saima Saleem

We as women generally hold the view that obstacles we face in our daily lives on the road to success are hard to overcome. It is impossible for us to succeed in the patriarchal society that we live in. However, these limitations and obstacles are imagined. Yes, they all exist in our mind and this is what limits us from reaching beyond and flying high. Yet there are women out there, from our very own society who have pushed these limitations out of their way and shone all the way. One such exquisite example is Saaima Saleem- one true beacon of hope- one of the heroes of our nation, the Helen Keller of Pakistan. One from whom we all should learn that no matter where you are, what you do and what hardships you face, all you have to do is push beyond and not give up.

Saima lost her sense of sight due to a genetic disease- Retinitis Pigmentosa in her teenage, and from there on became a victim, a social outcast, faced discrimination at school and was denied the fundamental human rights. Something, that unfortunately, happens to every disabled person in our society. But where, everyone gives up, she refused to give in and took every obstacle in her way as a step up in life. Lack of resources, the set policies did nothing to deter the resolve she held to do something extraordinary in life. From there, she rose. She worked with determination to change the way of thinking towards those with disabilities. She refused to let discrimination face her future. She, took hold.

She became the outstanding student of her school and received a gold medal in Bachelors and Masters by the Kinnaird College University for Women. Due to her insistence, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, all her exams were conducted in Braille as she refused to bow down and fought for her rights. She refused to let anyone hold the power to decide her future by giving the exams in the traditional way, by choosing a writer. Following her Masters, she chose to appear in the CSS papers to become the first BLIND Civil Servant of Pakistan.

However, her hardships did not end here. The FPSC refused to let her give computer based exams, and when they gave in, she was offered only four occupational choices: Commerce, Accounts, Postal and Information. Here she stood up to the discriminatory actions and set her mind to go into Foreign Service, to serve Pakistan. Her relentless pursuit to get what she wanted, led the government to bend down and change their policy, giving her admission on merit. There she topped all her training and received another Gold Medal by the Foreign Service Academy. In addition she won a scholarship and went to School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, USA. Due to her passion for improving the human rights in the country, she developed expertise and has now been working for the past five years in this department.

Serving the Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations is Geneva, Saima is currently working on the human rights issue. She has, time and again proved to be a source of pride to Pakistan. A woman, who has fought non-stop for human rights and overcame all challenges, never losing hope.

Being the ultimate role model for the females of our society, it can easily be said that our actions are defined by what is in our head. The obstacles and limitations, nothing can stop you from being successful or pursuing a career that you want if you put your mind to it. Believe in your self, and don’t let discrimination, people’s belief stand in your way of success.

Women like Saima make us a proud nation! Know of such women? Tell us and we will feature them too!

Maria Nadeem

Written by Maria Nadeem

The Lyceum School (2011-2013)
Foundation Public School (1999-2011)