Women Who Climbed High: Shattering the Glass Ceiling

Women who climbed high
Image Credits: Getty Images

Each year on March 8th, the world comes together to celebrate International Women Day. It is a day to acknowledge the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. But Women’s Day is more than just a celebration; it’s a call to action – a day to reflect on the challenges, which women confront and to chalk out a path for a more equitable future for them. This article delves into the history, significance, and highlights of the inspiring stories of women from across the globe and Pakistan.

Genesis of International Women’s Day (IWD)

The origins of IWD can be traced back to the early 1900s, a time of significant social and political unrest. Women were fighting for their rights in various spheres, including suffrage (the right to vote), better working conditions, and a say in political matters. In 1908, 15,000 women marched in New York City demanding shorter hours, better wages, and voting rights. Similar protests erupted across Europe and North America throughout the next decade. The first official IWD was celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. In 1975, the United Nations designated March 8th as International Women’s Day. Since then, the UN has set annual themes for IWD.

The theme for 2024 is ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,’ with a focus to mitigate economic disempowerment. The campaign theme this year is ‘Inspire Inclusion.’

Celebrating Women Leading the Way Across the Globe

IWD is a great opportunity to celebrate all those women, who broke stereotypes and paved their way in a patriarchal world. Let’s recall some of the wonderful women, who showed the world that they were capable of doing great things. Despite the challenges, women around the world are making immense contributions in multiple fields.

Wangari Maathai from Kenya, is an environmental activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an organization focused on planting trees, environmental conservation, and women’s empowerment in Africa. Astrophysicist Dr. Sandra Faber is a pioneer in understanding Galaxy formation. Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal in fencing, inspiring young Muslim girls in sports. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the current Director-General of the World Trade Organization, is a leading voice in global trade. Michelle Bachelet, the first female President of Chile, has broken barriers in Latin American politics. Jacinda Ardern – Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and the world’s youngest female Head of Government at the time of her election in 2017, are just a few to mention from among a pool of outstanding women from across the globe.

Pakistani Women: A Force to Be Reckoned With

While the struggles of women from any segment, race or nation around the globe, holds immense significance but women from developing countries like Pakistan warrants a special mention of their achievements, who had to go an extra mile to break the glass ceiling.

Pakistan boasts a rich history of remarkable women, who have broken barriers and excelled in various fields. Here’s a glimpse into the achievements of Pakistani women WHO deserve global recognition:

Benazir Bhutto, the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim-majority nation, is an inspiration for women in leadership roles. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, made history by becoming the first ever women Chief Minister of Punjab, the most populous and economically vital province of Pakistan. She defied the political and social odds and paved her way. Lieutenant General Nigar Johar, Pakistan’s first ever three-star female general appointed as the Colonel Commandant of Army Medical Corps (AMC). Marium Mukhtar, was the first female General Duty Pilot of Pakistan Air Force, who embraced martyrdom in the line of duty, while serving her country. Ayesha A. Malik, became Pakistan’s first female Judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan, marking a milestone in the country’s 76-year history.

Everyone recognizes and recalls Arfa Karim Randhawa. The nine-year-old girl, who made history as the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) in 2004 and the youngest recipient of the President’s Award for Pride of Performance, as well as countless other accolades and recognition in Pakistan and overseas. Malala Yousafzai, who survived a terrorist attack by the banned outfit TTP for advocating women’s education at the age of 15. She became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate and now is a global advocate for girls’ education. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, is a renowned filmmaker and the first individual ever to receive Oscar Award from Pakistan for her documentary. Samina Baig, first female mountaineer, who scaled Mount Everest and the Seven Summits, demonstrating incredible determination and pushing boundaries. Bisma Maroof, Pakistan’s women cricket team captain, who raised women’s cricket in Pakistan to new heights, under her captaincy.

These are just a few examples of the countless Pakistani women, who are making a difference. International Women’s Day provides a platform to remember and celebrate their achievements, but it’s also a reminder to support initiatives that empower women, dismantle gender barriers, and ensure equal opportunities for all. Women form almost half of the global population yet their representation in workforce and leadership roles is far from considerable. We should provide women equal and accessible opportunities as that of men, an inclusive approach with effective structural and institutional change should be adopted to make most of women’s immense potential.

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