Pakistan’s premier international showbiz star and UN Goodwill Ambassador Mahira Khan and global health leader Dr Sania Nishtar, who is also the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, have been named in the BBC list of 2020’s 100 women.
The BBC said this year ‘100 Women’ highlights those who are leading change and making a difference during these turbulent times.
Mahira has been featured under creative and Sania under the knowledge categories, respectively.
Reacting to the news, Sania tweeted that she was “Truly honoured to be on the list of @BBC100women who have made a difference in 2020!”. The BBC described Mahira Khan as “no ordinary actress — she is outspoken against sexual violence, refuses to endorse skin-lightening creams and supports the fight against racism. She wants to tackle social issues in her native Pakistan by changing the narrative in films and on TV.
It further noted that “Mahira is a national goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, raising awareness of the plight of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. She’s been a firm favourite with audiences ever since starting out as an MTV video jockey (VJ) in 2006. Mahira is also a devoted mother to her 11-year-old son.”
Her quote in the story was listed as: “Speak up about the causes and issues that matter to encourage change.”
The BBC described Dr Sania Nishtar as “a leader in global health and sustainable development. Since 2018, she has been spearheading the transformative Ehsaas Poverty Alleviation programme, which has improved the livelihoods of millions of Pakistanis by providing mobile banking and savings accounts, and other basic resources.”
“As Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection,” BBC said, “Sania has helped to empower the masses by taking the necessary first steps toward the development of a welfare state in Pakistan.”
Her quote in the story was listed as: “The dramatic impact of Covid-19 presents us with a once-in-a-generation chance to build a fairer world and bring an end to poverty, inequality and the climate crisis. For this, women must be equal, empowered stakeholders.”
Mahira has transcended borders when it comes to her fan base with millions following the superstar’s dramas and films in India, Bangladesh, the Middle East and the US and UK. She shot to fame with the TV drama Humsafar, which has been dubbed into Arabic and broadcast by MBC in the Middle East, while it was also broadcast in India on Zee Zindagi. She is the country’s top star with the largest following on social media with numbers surpassing millions on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
One of her unique laurels is that she is the only mother who has played the lead heroine in both Pakistani and Indian cinema. She famously featured opposite Indian megastar Shah Rukh Khan in the film Raees.
Mahira is a source of inspiration for many and has actively spoken on many platforms such as the Global Teacher’s Prize Ceremony by the Varkey Foundation in Dubai, the Aga Khan University Special Lecture Series in Karachi and TEDxLahore, motivating audiences of all ages with her zest and wisdom.
She was appointed National Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR in November last year.
Dr Sania Nishtar is the founder and President of Heartfile, which began in Pakistan in 1999 as a health information-focused nongovernmental organisation and evolved into a think tank on health policy issues. She is also founder of Heartfile Health Financing, a programme that uses a customised IT platform and mobile phones to protect poor patients from medical impoverishment or foregoing healthcare.
A cardiologist by training, she was Best Graduate of the Khyber Medical College in 1986 and holds a Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of London and a PhD from King’s College London. Widely considered a thought leader on health policy, she has been a key drafter of several global health declarations.
Dr Nishtar served in Pakistan during the 2013 caretaker government as Minister for Science and Technology, Education and Trainings and Information Technology and Telecom. During her term, she was instrumental in establishing Pakistan’s Ministry of Health. She narrowly missed out on being elected the Director General of the World Health Organisation in 2017. She is currently the head Ehsaas, one of the biggest poverty alleviation programmes in the world that counters elite capture by leveraging 21st century tools — such as using data and technology to create precision safety nets; promoting financial inclusion and access to digital services; supporting the economic empowerment of women.
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