“It was December of 1996 when I was called by the HR Head of ICI into the very office where I sit in now and I was told they have good and bad news. They said I’m being promoted but I have to relocate to Lahore. I’m a total Karachiite and Lahore was absolutely unknown for me. I was cognizant of the fact that girls who live on their own are looked down upon in our society. But I braved the challenge, lived as a paying guest, found my own space, got my own meals, found my own dhobi, and emerged triumphant from that challenge. It worked out to be great. I built my career, learnt a lot from personal experiences and I would encourage everyone to take on that challenge whenever it comes.”Fathema Zuberi, head of HR at ICI Pakistan Limited, recalls with amusement the hurdles of her younger years. It is evident from her strong, charismatic personality that everything she has endured has polished her like a jewel.
Fathema is a mother to two beautiful girls. Being a working mum does pose a lot of challenges, but compared to challenges faced by other woman in Pakistan, Fathema says her own difficulties seem trivial. “Your kids aren’t well and you leave them at the mercy of a maid to travel for a business meeting. It’s always a challenge but it’s nothing when you look around and so many people have to make bigger sacrifices just to make ends meet.” For Fathema it’s as simple as 3 things; plan what you want to do, prioritize and learn to multitask. She says that once you have learnt the art of how to do several things at one time, everything else is a breeze.
Emotional stability and financial independence are both essential according to Fathema because you never know when life will throw an unexpected curve ball towards you. She talks about how a lot of her friends and family went through difficult stages in life and those who managed to come out of them bravely were the ones who knew how to keep themselves financially and emotionally independent. Fathema herself was brought up in a household where children had the freedom to take their own decisions. “I think whatever I am today is because of my mother. If it was not for the values instilled in me, without the love, encouragement and tolerance I would be nothing.”
Fathema admits that playing several roles in life is not easy. Being a professional, a mother, a wife, a daughter-in-law, and most of all being true to your own self is difficult all at the same time. On occasions when she has struggled with what to do, two concepts have always helped her – knowing her purpose and never being ashamed to ask for help and reach out to people who care for her. Husband, family, mentor, or boss, Fathema doesn’t shy away from reaching out for help.
Fathema believes that women, by nature, are self-sacrificing. However, taking care of yourself is critical. Fathema travels, visits salons, and spends time relaxing with friends and family. It’s her time out. Every time her children turn around and appreciate her and every time they tell her they are proud of her, is a miracle moment. She smiles and says that she considers herself lucky that her miracle moments come very often. It makes all the hard work and challenges worthwhile. And now that she has been selected as a Pond’s Miracle Woman we are sure that her children have yet another reason to feel proud of their mother