A woman who was affected by polio at the age of five months studied in a wheelchair to complete her MA in economics and now runs a social organisation for people with disabilities and strives for their rights.
Zahida Hameed Qureshi has been the president of the Society for Special Persons for 15 years.
She contracted polio at the age of five months and was crippled in both legs. During her childhood after refusal from various schools, Zahida was admitted to a private institution on the condition that her mother or brother would be responsible for everything from taking her to the washroom to moving between classrooms.
Zahida completed her matriculation with science subjects. Despite unfavorable conditions, Zahida’s father took a wheelchair for her. Due to her interest in science subjects, she got admission to FSc.
Even in a difficult time, the elder brother supported her and she completed masters after regular admission in a university.
Zahida said, “Even when all the classmates used to go to the Central Library, I was unable to go due to my disability, so I had to ask my friends to bring me books. However, I broke the university record in Islamic Values of Economics and secured 75 marks. Thus, I completed my MA in Economics with distinction.”
She added that after passing the exam, she applied for a job in every school, college and university in her area, but it was said that for teaching her subject she would have to write on a white board. She said she was also warned that children would make fun of her.
“However, I was advised to apply for the jobs coming under the Punjab Public Service Commission.”
After that she got a job in a school in Sui, Balochistan. But her family members did not agree to send her to Balochistan, she added.
Later, She was made the focal person for persons with disabilities in the Social Welfare Department of Punjab government.
In recognition of her services, she was given the Fatima Jinnah Woman of the Year Award 2016 by the federal government.
Under her NGO, a small factory was set up where people with disabilities are making wheelchairs themselves.
At least 300 people with disabilities have learned various skills from the organisation while her team was the champion in the National Wheelchair Competition.
Pakistan Baitul Mal has also inked a memorandum of understanding for the distribution of 10,000 wheelchairs across the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2021.