My Awesome Journey

Meet: The Helen Keller of Pakistan & Ambassador of Hope- Saima Saleem- Serving in Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva (Switzerland).

This will give many of you immense inspiration and motivation. I sincerely hope that after reading this, many of us understand that most of the limitations we think of might just be in our mind. Saima is a beacon of hope. She has turned all ...odds presented to her and time and again has proven that no matter what ‘cards’ are dealt to you, you are in control of your own destiny. My weak effort to her beautiful journey is merely just an attempt to highlight different facets of how she bravely faced adversity.

Some people in the world are bestowed with the ‘vision’ and change course their own history. I happen to come across Saima, and was driven to this conclusion that she happens to be one of them. In 2008, she became the first blind diplomat of Pakistan. Yes, you guys read that right. Read on, it happens to be an amazing story and I found myself dumbfounded.

Due to a genetic disease (Retinitis Pigmentosa), Saima lost her sight in her teenage. Here, where millions of people with special abilities are treated as social outcastes, face all forms of discrimination, are denied fundamental human rights, including, among others, right to education and employment, this ambassador of hope decided to turn every stumbling-block into a stepping- stone. Negative social attitudes, lack of resources, never changing rules and policies and many such obstacles could not match Saima’s unflinching resolve to do something extraordinary in life and change the perception of our society regarding persons with special abilities.

Saima rose like a phoenix. She was the most outstanding student of her school. Due to her academic excellence, she was given a gold medal in Bachelors and Master by Kinnaird College University for Women. For the first time in Pakistan, all her exams were conducted in Braille because she fought for her rights and refused to appear in exams with the help of a writer who could mar her future due to negligence and lack of capacity. After her Masters, she decided to appear in the CSS exams with the resolve to become the first blind Civil Servant of Pakistan.

At first, FPSC refused to conduct her exam because she requested for a computer-based exam which had never been conducted in Pakistan. Through a divine intervention and her relentless pursuits, her wish was granted and President of Pakistan ordered FPSC to conduct a computer-based exam. It is pertinent to mention that she uses Screen-Reader software (JAWS) for working independently on the computer and software for scanning the books and other material for reading.

The leader got sixth position in the country and first among female candidates. Through an ordinance, FPSC had only allowed disabled candidates to choose only four occupational groups-Accounts, Commerce, Information and Postal. Once again, Saima refused to accept this discriminatory treatment and chose Foreign Service for she had always wanted to become a diplomat and represent Pakistan. Rules had to face a defeat in front of her indomitable resolve and the Prime Minister of Pakistan allowed her to join Foreign Service on merit. After joining Foreign Service, she topped all trainings and exams and was given another Gold Medal by Foreign Service Academy. In addition, she won a Fulbright Scholarship and went to study at the prestigious School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University USA. Upon joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, due to her passion to improve human rights in the country, she developed expertise in human rights and had been working on human rights issues from the last five years.

Saima is currently serving in Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva (Switzerland) and is working on human rights issues. It is a matter of great pride for the nation that Pakistan is represented by an outstanding young diplomat who has fought incessantly for human rights and has overcome all challenges. Her charismatic personality and stunning achievements have given a big boost to the soft image of the country. What an awesome future prospect for our country that Helen Keller of the 21st century is the face of Pakistan!