Noor Ahmed is a relentless champion for the human rights of girls and women in Pakistan. Through providence and Noor’s persistence we connected over Facebook. We were both watching a LIVE Facebook viewing of Women for Women International’s discussion on Syrian women refugees trapped by conflict. As the speakers shared their heartbreaking stories of courageous women trying to protect themselves and their families, we both sent messages affirming their strength and valor. Noor saw my comments, reached out to me on Facebook, and asked that I mentor him in sharing the stories of the women and girls in his own community.
Noor is on a mission to locate help from anywhere in the world for the women and girls he serves, and he’s living proof that one person armed with passion, fighting for the justice of others can be unstoppable. He began sending me photos and short captions of individual cases. My Facebook messenger was blowing up daily with the accounts of real mothers, sisters and daughters, their eyes staring at me every time I looked at my phone. The faces of feminine Pakistan. I began connecting Noor to organizations to help him find more support and asked him to get a twitter account so we could start sharing these moving stories of resilience within grief.
Be Relentless in Your Pursuit of what is Right
Noor was born in the village of Mirpurkhas, Pakistan in 1975. He has three brothers and two sisters. He is a graduate of The University of Sindh, earning his MBA in marketing in 1998, and then an MA in Sociology in 2014. He has been working in the social sector since 2011 on many advocacy projects implementing teams.
In 2005 Noor married Rukhsana, a graduate of the same university, and whom he calls, “An amazing woman whom I am proud to have as my life partner.” Despite living a very difficult life growing up in poverty, she has great passion for supporting the girls of marginalized communities. Rukhsana is taking courses in stitchery and embroidery, and after completing them, she would like to further her education while opening a stitchery and embroidery learning center for poor girls in Mirpurkhas. They have two sons, Danyal, and Ayan, eleven and seven years old respectively, both are in school.
Noor, tell me about your work today:
I am employee of Baanhn Beli, implementing a project on gender justice that works in several districts of Sindh including Mirpurkhas. I listen to the stories of girls and women and work on making their voices heard. I tell them about their constitutional rights, and then we connect them to service providers in order to receive the benefits within their rights. We provide training to help empower them. I report the cases of victimization to organizations that offer them legal, psychological, and other support needed.
What drove you to do the work you do? How did you get here? Are you paid? If not how to you earn a living?
I come from a poor family, my father was a farmer. I spent most of my life in my village assisting my father in field work. I personally know that man-made inequalities are real barriers to those who cannot afford to live a life of dignity, or who cannot enjoy their rights. Girls and women suffer the most, facing discrimination as they are regarded as the property of men. This goes against all of the ethical and moral values that I embrace. My life is governed by these values. I am in this world for a purpose; to support those who are victimized, who have no access to justice. It is my duty to work for the girls and women as a source of inspiration through offering practical support that they need. I am a volunteer in this all work. Even though I see so much injustice, my ethical and moral values keep me motivated.
What frustrates you about your work and mission?
When service providers, including government institutions deny the girls and the women their rights.
What kind of help would you hope to get from sharing your story?
I hope that through sharing the stories of these girls and women that I serve, I would be able to get them help that they need. I want people to hear their struggle for living and to see their resilience in the face of immense challenges.
Photos: Shagufta Ahmed
You can contact Noor through twitter: @noorpkvoices
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe