We are co-partners in national development, perfectly describes all Pakistani women who are constantly breaking stereotypes and becoming icons in their respective fields. One such icon is Major General Nigar Johar Khan — competent, professional and an inspirational leader.
Major General Nigar Johar Khan, a two-star general in Pakistan Army, is the third woman in the history of Pakistan Army to reach the rank of Major General. She hails from Panjpir village of Swabi district. She completed her schooling from Presentation Convent Girls High School, Rawalpindi. She graduated from Army Medical College in 1985 and in 2010, she completed the examination for membership from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Pakistan (CPSP). In 2012, she completed her Masters in Advance Medical Administration from Armed Forces Post Graduate Medical Institute (AFPGMI) and in 2015, she received a Masters degree in Public Health from University of Health Sciences (UHS), Lahore. She has the honour of being the first lady officer to be given command of a unit/hospital of Armed Forces. On Febuary 9, 2017, Nigar Johar was promoted to the rank of Major General. She has proved time and again, be it “male or female,” with willpower and motivation, one can achieve what she sets her heart on.
In a recent interview with Hilal for Her, Major General Nigar Johar shared her life experiences and also had some advice to give for young women who want to pursue their dreams and excel at what they are doing.
Q. What inspired you to pursue a medical career and join Pakistan Army?
I always wanted to become an Army doctor. My father was an Army officer and that inspired me to become an Army doctor. Inspite of getting admission in all three medical colleges that I applied to, my choice was clear, i.e., Army Medical College. I achieved my dream when I got commisioned as a Captain doctor in December 1985.
Q. How was your journey from a Captain to Major General?
Allah has been very kind to me all my life and especially through this journey. My work has always given me happiness. The drive to assist people in any way I possibly could, has always thrived in me. My passion to help others remained my motivation. As I grew through age and ranks, each new rank was a challenge and was of utmost importance to me. I am grateful to Allah and then to Pakistan Army for granting me all this success. Army works on merit and I am testimony to the fact that you need only hard work to excel in the Army.
Q. What are your success habits that helped you through difficult times?
I have always believed in the power of positivity and hard work. The Qur’an says, “There is nothing for man but what he strives for.” It is hard work coupled with sincerity of cause and positive attitude that does the magic. Staying positive and helping others in need has always made me happy and kept me going in difficult times.
I lost my parents in a car accident when I was very young. I could not have reached where I am today, if it wasn’t for my parents, who taught me about the power of positive thinking and, the achievement and beauty associated with it. This pushed me to work in such a way that no stone was left unturned to achieve my desired goal. I have always had a very strong willpower. It is truly amazing how a person can achieve so much with just a pinch of positivity and a strong ‘can-do’ attitude.
Q. Did you ever face gender discrimination, and how were you able to deal with it?
Gender discrimination is a social problem not only in Pakistan but also globally. Although, the Army, as an institution, is open to the idea of women working shoulder to shoulder with men, as is evident by the considerable number of women serving not just in the Medical Corps but in other departments as well, but one does come across minor issues at times. However, these are gradually fading away. Gender discrimination can exist in any office and on any level of management, but that is not the problem. The problem occurs when we fail to teach our daughters and sisters to recognize that they are being discriminated. Being a woman requires you to work at least twice as hard, but once you are recognized for your resilience and work, you are respected twice as much. I have always focused on my work in order to succeed. I have worked with male colleagues and not against them. The glass ceiling is pretty high but Pakistani women are getting there, slowly but surely.
Q. What are some of the major health issues that Pakistani women are facing?
Pakistani women generally do not prioritise themselves, be it their food, health or education. Females keep themselves and their daughters the last priority, resulting in malnutrition and anaemia. According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, half of Pakistani women of reproductive age are anaemic. Unfortunately, Pakistan also ranks very high in the number of maternal deaths. Women also lack awarness regarding health care and antenatal care, especially in rural areas. In addition, majority of rural women are also deprived of education and basic healthcare, resulting in such high percentage of anaemia and high mortality rate. Health of families and nations is linked with the health of women, which is linked with women’s education. We need to address the root causes and educate our women.
Q. How do you balance personal and professional life?
Maintaining a career and personal life can get pretty hectic sometimes, but I feel it is easy if you make your spouse understand from the outset. I am lucky to have a spouse who not only understands but also supports me. Although, work and personal life can be kept separate, there are overlaps at times. To successfully walk the tightrope between professional and personal life, you need to understand life’s priorities. A successful woman knows how to maintain a balance in her work and home.
Q. Your message to the female youth of Pakistan.
Realize and understand the strengths of being a woman. Marie Curie (French-Polish physicist), the first woman Nobel laureate said, and I quote, "Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood." Have faith and trust in Allah. Educate yourself today to avoid being left behind tomorrow. Work for your purpose and dream. Working hard with positivity and commitment makes your work, your passion.
An empowered woman needs to empower other women.HH
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