This is part of a limited series, “14 Days, 14 Stories”, about ordinary Pakistanis who are doing extraordinary things in order to give back to Pakistan.
Two years ago, on the 8th of August, a renowned educationist and a fierce, bold woman passed away, leaving behind a remarkable story and legacy. Professor Ghulamali was not just another name or individual – she was a force to be reckoned with, a woman of substance and an undeniable legend.
From a very young age, Professor Ghulamali set herself apart from the rest.
She was straightforward, blunt, outdoorsy and immensely witty, and had a drive for working towards the betterment of the community. As a teenager, she was a part of, and presided over, the Girl’s Guide Association. She also served as a volunteer at the Red Cross in Lyari. She was a firm believer in speaking out against any form of oppression which led to her political involvement when she was studying Microbiology at Karachi University. She went on to join Radio Pakistan Karachi as an English newscaster. Anyone who heard her talk would agree that her strength and power were crystal clear, even through the means of a radio.
In the 1960’s, she joined the Sindh Muslim Science College to teach Microbiology. It was during this time that she joined the Pakistan College Teacher’s Association, where she served as, both, vice president and president in the years to come.
Often, you hear about activists that are all talk, or those who hide behind screens and people alike, protecting themselves as they meekly voice their opinion. Professor Ghulamali was not one of those people.
In the 70’s, she was an active part in the movement that called for the nationalization of colleges – a movement that she led protests for. These protests were baton charged and she was arrested for standing up for what she believed in. However, no pair of handcuffs could slow her down.
During the 80’s, she became the managing director of the Sindh Teacher’s Foundation which was the basis for the formation of Sindh Education Foundation – an institute that she remained affiliated with and worked tirelessly for till 2013. She was also made the education minister twice, where her only reason for resigning was her refusal to allow political influence to cast a shadow over her work. She is a recipient of the President’s Pride of Performance medal, the Sitara-e-Imtiaz and the Benazir Excellence Award for her remarkable contribution towards education.
Despite her credentials, Professor Ghulamali’s story is one that lives through her own words.
Anyone who knew her, loved her or had the honor of being in her presence was swept up by the individual she was. The beauty of her life lay not in the medals adorning her office shelves – it lay in the way she made everyone feel important, regardless of who they were. Her office or dining hall would be filled with scholars, singers, writers and children alike – a mix of people one would not expect to interact – but she made it happen. She was indiscriminate in how she treated people – regardless of their age, sex or field of work. Professor Ghulamali not only commanded respect, she distributed it to those who proved their mettle.
Why is her story important?
As a nation, we tend to be ungrateful. We make heroes out of people who may not deserve the importance, shoving aside the heroes that really matter. Professor Anita Ghulamali mattered. In a man’s world, she was a one woman army – respected and feared, but also deeply loved. In a country like Pakistan, where women are the first to be degraded and overlooked, she made men around her seem weak. It was not easy, of course but she fought her way to the top. A giant in the world of education, she made a mark upon the community in a huge way, but also left a deep seated footprint in the paths of all those around her,
Professor Anita Ghulamali was more than words will ever be able to convey. To say that she is sorely missed is an understatement – she left behind the kind of void that does not fill. Her life is an example for many and the path she trod, truly, the one less taken.
One spends their entire life looking for a purpose or reason. Here was a woman born with an air of purpose beneath her wings and an inextinguishable fire burning within her soul.
Professor Ghulamali is remembered by her family and all those whose lives she touched in ways that she might not have known herself. It is true that legends never die, for she lives on through her remarkable story and a life that is a lesson for all.
For more stories from our series about extraordinary Pakistanis check out ‘14 Days, 14 Stories‘.
Cover Image via: Dawn.com