25-year-old Zahra Abbas, a free spirited girl born with the deformity of all four limbs did not let her disability govern her life.
She is living an exemplary life breaking all sort of barriers there can possibly be.
Life has been difficult for her but with her family’s support her own motivation to prove herself she has had put herself in a dominant role in the society.
She completed her studies writing with her elbows and also got a Gold Medal from the CM of Punjab, Mr.Shehbaz Sharif as a special prize in the Matriculation Board exams in 2008.
She did her MBA from Punjab University and now is an integral part of a Management, Development and Consulting organization. She is leading her life and working in all circumstances with courage and motivation.
Speaking about her life Zahra feels that Allah gives people like her a strength to deal with their loss but she feels the real struggle is for her parents.
“I do not even know what it feels like to walk but as a parent it is tough. They have to take me amongst other normal children, they have to bring me up, educate me and most importantly, make me survive in a society where there is so much rejection, where there are lack of facilities, where there are more problem for girls.”
Reminiscing her life journey, Zahra recalls all the challenges she has had to face, but all that she has fought like a warrior. Her battles, probably began way earlier but starting from the time she had to be enrolled in a school, she could remember them all very clearly.
“When I had to be enrolled into a school many schools were reluctant to give me admission as they feared having to give special treatment to me. It was with great difficulty that I finally got admission in Lahore Lyceum where I started my journey of writing with my elbows and trying to complete all my exams and assignments within the given time as I was not being treated any differently.”
After completing her matriculation in 2008, she went on to do her FSc from Kinnard College, Lahore.
The biggest challenge she faced in her two years at college was that for one year her classes was at the third floor and it was with great difficulty that she overcame that hurdle on a daily basis.
“The biggest problem in our society is that we do not seem to realize that everyone has the right to education. We have no special arrangement for the people we call special in our society for them to achieve their dreams or at least, be able to do things normal people do,”
After that she took admission in Punjab University and did both her BBA (Hons.) and MBA from the IBA Department.
Travelling is still Zahra’s biggest constraint.None of our local transport is designed in a way in which she can travel alone despite of having an electric wheel chair.
“We must have some such transport. For every little movement I need to call someone from my home and ask them to take me to the next place,” she said, adding that even the newly launched Metro bus by the Punjab government has come as no relief for the disabled as they only provide wheelchairs at the exit and entrance stops of the bus.
Feeling sorry for the lack of priorities of our society, Zahra said, “Almost every other day on the social media we are watching a stupid video of some weird person making a hero out of them calling them entertainment sidelining who struggle their entire lives, the people who really deserve our attention.”
However, her struggles did not end with her education. As she decided to take a step further and look for a job, life threw at her greater obstacles. “There are so many companies which talk about diversification but when they come down to interviewing you their questions get downright humiliating. Interviewees question you in a way which indirectly hints at you also having some kind of mental disability.
“For me, it is an ongoing journey. Even if I become the President of the country I will still have to be worried about how I have to wake up, sleep, go to the washroom, how I have to write, sit in the car. I will still be scared every time I see the stairs thinking that I have to cross these one more time.”
How hard has it been for Zahra on a personal level to deal with all the insensitive comments of people around her though?
“I still remember in Grade 3 the teacher walked in the class and all children stood up to greet her while I couldn’t. One of my class fellows turned to me and said why don’t you stand up to greet the teacher. I ran home to my mother that day crying my eyes out pleading to her to never send me to school again. It was later I realized, that maybe, even with their feet they can never reach a stage which I can, with none.”
Zahra has started motivational speaking in the corporate sector and amongst the youth. She wishes to go to every girls’ school of Pakistan as a motivational speaker aiming to transform their lives through it but to be able to achieve her goals on such a large scale she wants more and more people or the government to help her.
Zahra believes that there is nothing in life one cannot do if they really commit themselves to it. The first thing is basic education. One should be focused. You should know what you want. Whether you want to be a positive impact in society or just suffer your entire life. If there is something we really want to achieve in our lives we need to set our target clear.