Muniba Mazari   

By Farah Khan
Name Muniba Mazari
Occupation Motivational speaker and disability activist
Category Crusader
Country of Residence Pakistan

Why we felt she needed to be included in this list: Muniba Mazari is Pakistan’s first paraplegic artist, activist, motivational speaker, model, singer, television host and UN Women’s first Goodwill Ambassador to Pakistan. She uses her own journey of recovery from a near-fatal accident (that left her wheelchair-bound) to spread the message of hope and the importance of fighting gender inequality and discrimination.

Muniba Mazari, often called the Iron Lady of Pakistan, grew up like many Pakistani women of a conservative background. Belonging to a traditional Baloch family, she married at 18 in an arranged marriage that was cut short in 2006 when a terrible car accident left her with life-altering injuries. With a spinal cord injury, multiple fractures to her arm, shoulders, ribs and collarbone, she was told she would no longer be able to walk, paint or give birth. Bedridden and emotionally broken, for the next two years she questioned life, its purpose, and why she cheated death to be left wheelchair-bound, unable to give birth to fulfill what the society called was the ultimate role of a woman.

Nothing is perfect in this world. We all are perfectly imperfect. And that is perfectly all right. That’s all right!

From her speech “We Are Perfectly Imperfect

Bored of the white hospital and bedroom walls around her, Mazari started painting, when she regained use of her hand, to add colour to her life. This proved to be therapeutic and a turning point in her life. She began to accept her new life as a rebirth and overcame the many fears that came with her condition.

Today, Mazari is an inspiration to millions around the world, sharing how she rose out of immense despair and turned her weaknesses into her strengths. She gives talks on many platforms encouraging people dealing with tragedies, particularly those with disabilities, to push past the obstacles and create a new life for themselves. She rose to fame in 2014 after giving a TEDx Talk in Islamabad, Pakistan, and she has since been invited to speak at talks at various conferences and forums including the Youth Entrepreneur Organization, Entrepreneurs’ Organization Network, Young Presidents’ Organization, Global Leadership Conference, VCon Malaysia, Vcon Dubai, and the Leadership Summit Pakistan.

Mazari feels strongly about fighting against gender-based discrimination, having dealt with it during her bedridden years and beyond when she was made to feel that a female paraplegic is different than a male with the same condition. Marking the end of the 16 Days Of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign in 2015, Mazari was appointed UN Women’s first National Goodwill Ambassador to Pakistan.  

To continue her fight for acceptance for those with disabilities, Mazari decided that staying in the public eye as a paraplegic living a fulfilling, successful life, would  be more beneficial than starting an NGO. Along with her philanthropic efforts, she is a mixed media artist. Pakistani’s first wheelchair-bound artist, she has established her own brand, Muniba’s Canvas, with the slogan “Let Your Walls Wear Colours.” She also works as an occasional anchor at one of Pakistan’s oldest TV stations, the Pakistan Television Corporation, being their first wheelchair-using anchor. She was also international hairdressing salon Toni & Guy’s first-ever wheelchair-bound model in Asia. Her first campaign for them was called Women of Substance. And she was chosen by beauty brand Pond’s as the Pond’s Miracle Woman.

Mazari has been a part of Dil Say Pakistan‘s campaign to spread patriotism and unity in the country, and she performed as a singer for them, including in a YouTube video which was published in August 2017 as part of their Independence Day campaign that year.

In 2018, Mazari launched her own show on Pakistani TV channel Hum News entitled Main Nahi Hum (Not Me But We), where she covers everything from human and child trafficking and sexual harassment, to the struggles of child labour, postpartum depression, and female empowerment. She has featured interviews with everyone from well-known artists and sports players to homeless children, the homeless and elderly.

You are the hero of your own life story and heroes never give up!

This year, she was appointed by Prime Minister Imran Khan to be a part of Pakistan’s first ever National Youth Council.

She was named one of BBC’s Top 100 Women for 2015 for fighting the disability taboo in Pakistan. She received a Laurel’s Honour Award from Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lahore Division. In 2016, she was named in Forbes 30 under 30 in the media and marketing category. The following year she was presented with the Humanitarian Prize by the Karc Brothers Award 2017 in Belgrade, Serbia and was awarded with the GoExcellence Trainer Certificate by Canada Global Consulting and Training Centre Ltd.

Mazari lives with her adopted son Nile, and credits much of her recovery and restoring her life to her mother’s help and faith. And she’s a strong believer that when you accept yourself the way you are, the world recognizes you.  

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