Dr Isma Gheewala
“Although my father was very passionate about animals, he didn’t talk to me for a year because I decided to be a veterinary doctor,” says Isma Gheewala, a veterinary surgeon, currently running Animal Care centre in Karachi. When Isma started out on this path, there were a mere 6 girls in her class among 100 boys. She was told that this was one of the lowest professions in the country related to the field of medicine. However, because of her father, she always loved animals and felt that while there were so many doctors to take care of human beings, while hardly any to treat animals. “Since then, it has been my goal to bring up this profession to the same level of respect as it has in the West. I’d say we have been 70% successful but unfortunately, because of the lack of certain facilities, 30% still remains. There are no facilities available in Pakistan to get a CT scan or an MRI conducted for animals. However, knowledge wise and even instrumentation wise, we are quite there.”
Isma faces quite a few challenges being a Veterinary Surgeon in Pakistan. Although her father did not approve of her choice of career initially, her mother was always supportive. Isma explains the ways she faces gender discrimination on a daily basis. When a pet falls sick, rather than the owner, it is usually a cook or a driver that brings the animal to the clinic and they consider the female gender to be lower than theirs. “They seem to think that I don’t know a thing!” Isma muses. “It has taken me years of hard work to prove that I do have the knowledge and have finally earned the respect that I set out to achieve for myself.” It’s devastating for Isma when an animal is ill and passes away. “It is a nightmare for me. Initially, when such a situation would occur, I would start crying and call up my professor to say that this is not my cup of tea. Over time, I have learnt how to handle such cases but, indeed, such moments are a time of weakness for me. That is unfortunately a bitter pill that you have to take sometimes,” explains Isma.
It is imperative for all women to be financially independent, believes Isma. “My parents were separated when I was in my late teens. My mother, at that time, due to the separation, went through hard financial times. She always wanted us to stand on our feet. You must earn your own living because you can’t predict the future. She is very proud of me today and whatever I have achieved. My husband is a businessman and we have been married for 17 years, I have never asked him his earnings or how much money he brings home. I have never asked him for anything in my life. What I earn myself I spend half on my living, quarter on myself and save the rest. That has been my criteria all along and it has worked for me.” At the same time, it is also important to maintain work-life balance. Isma feels lucky that her husband has been very understanding and that she found a very good nanny for her son. “My son is 12 and refers to the nanny as ‘mama’ and to me as ‘mummy’. We have an equal play in his life. Since the day she came I told her to treat him like her son. We both take the burden equally of looking after him.”
It is not a surprise that for the very passionate and ambitious Isma, her Miracle Moments come just about every day when an animal comes to the clinic in pain or an ailment and leaves the clinic happy and healthy. “That is sheer joy and that is what keeps me going,” says Isma. With such veterinary surgeons leading the way in Pakistan, the standards of animal welfare are sure to rise sooner than later. Isma is an inspiration for all women who lack support in pursuing the profession of their choice and she shows by example, how, with patience and hard work, success and respect are bound to knock at your door.