- Thursday, 21 January 2016 08:28
In Conversation with Muniba Mazari – UN’s first woman Goodwill Ambassador to Pakistan -
Not one to shy away from challenges, Muniba Mazari continues to scale new heights.
Her speech at TEDx Islamabad created waves. Her words were loaded with candour and emotion, captivating people all around the world. From then on, she was invited to give motivational talks across Pakistan. Muniba’s achievements go beyond motivational speaking. Her fame catapulted when she became a host for a special live Ramazan transmission on PTV Home. Now having been appointed as Pakistan’s first female Goodwill Ambassador to advance gender equality and to empower women, Muniba fully intends to make a stronger impact.
Blue Chip: When you gave your speech at TEDx Islamabad, you moved a lot of people. It was after that you publicly gained great recognition, and tremendous respect. Tell us about that?
Muniba Mazari: When I was asked to speak at TEDx, I decided that I didn’t want to quote other people who had achieved something. I realised that I had to tell my story in my words to really make an impact. I wanted to tell people what I have to go through everyday. The idea wasn’t to go out and try to be “inspirational,” I just wanted to be me. The reception that I got was overwhelming, and I was truly touched.
BC: People often refer to you as an “inspiration.” I am sure it makes you very happy to hear that, however, does it become a bit overused at times, to the point where it annoys you?
MM: A number of people see me as an inspirational figure. I believe that with inspiration comes great responsibility. I feel very happy when people call me inspirational. There was a time when it did annoy me. I used to think that people felt sorry for me. However, I believe that that has changed now. People are looking at me now, not my wheelchair.
BC: You hosted a month long Ramazan transmission last year on PTV Home (Rooh-E-Ramazan). It was your first experience as a TV host. Were you a little nervy in the beginning, or did it come to you naturally?
MM: Initially I was slightly nervous, because I knew it was a massive responsibility. I was not scared, but I was cautious in the beginning as I knew that thousands of people were watching, and listening to every word. It was a great honor for to host a live show on PTV Home (Rooh-E-Ramazan), and I was extremely grateful for the opportunity.
BC: There was a slight incident on one of your live shows, when you accidently rolled back and fell off stage. However, after the break, it was remarkable to see the way you bounced back with a smile on your face. You behaved as if nothing happened, and carried on with your job. Tell us about that?
MM: After that happened, everybody, out of concern of course, wanted me to leave the show. It took me about half-an-hour to recover from the fall. I had bruises on my arms and back. However, I decided to stay, because we had invited young guests who were orphans. These children are young orphans who were abandoned by their parents, because they were born differently abled. So I thought to myself, if I quit and leave the show, I would be setting a bad example for these young children. If I quit, then they might think it okay to quit, and I couldn’t let that happen. So I decided to soldier on, and do the whole show.
BC: The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women has appointed you as the first Goodwill Ambassador for women in Pakistan. Could you expound on that?
MM: I was invited by the Global Civil Society Conference. They wanted me to represent Pakistan, as I often do a lot of social work in my spare time. As the keynote speaker at the conference, I was determined not to paint a glum picture of Pakistan. I mentioned that it is indeed hard for women to cope with the harsh realities of not just our society, but all over the world. However, if given the opportunity there is no reason why women cannot make a mark for themselves, and excel in anything they set their mind to, wherever they may be. My speech made a great impact, and after that I was declared as the first Goodwill Ambassador for women in Pakistan.
It is a great honour to be given this title. It opens doors for women all over Pakistan. This goes to show that if a Pakistani woman in a wheelchair can achieve this, anybody can. I will do everything in my power to make this new position of mine count.
BC: When you were lying in hospital after your horrific car accident that left you paralyzed, did you ever think you would be able to achieve so much success?
MM: When I was lying in bed, I was in terrible pain. However, for some reason I never lost hope. My mother kept telling me that you may be going through tremendous pain now, but I promise everything will be alright, and this will all make sense one day. When I found out that I lost feeling in my legs, I made a conscious decision to soldier on with a smile. I did have some very dark days of course, but for some reason, I just knew I would not only be able to adjust, but I would go on to make great achievements. It is so important to hold on to the silver lining, and make something out of it.
I have to say that my mother’s love and prayers kept me going. I realise a lot of people say that, but without my mother, I do not think I would have been able to pull through.