Ms. Sadaf Usman is a 2018 IVLP alumna, and the Director of For A Cause, a social enterprise that works to build a more peaceful, tolerant, compassionate and empowered society through self empowerment, life skills and positivity. This blog post is part of a series highlighting and celebrating women leaders in Meridian’s network during Women’s History Month.
A woman’s life has many different stages, and in each stage we come across women who inspire us and push us to be a better version of ourselves. One woman who has truly inspired me is my mother. It wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I realized how much effort, sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears goes into raising kids, and how often mothers put aside their dreams and aspirations to make sure their children do not miss out on any important experiences in their lives.
Along with my mother, my sister is an inspiration in my life. She is one of those women who has the wisdom and flexibility to keep flowing like water, and not become stagnant in face of adversity or lack of opportunities. She knows that a woman has many feathers in her cap, but she can take it all together while keeping her own ‘self’ alive, too. She has kept growing and developing her skills while raising four wonderful daughters. We both connect on and understand the need for a woman to have an expression of her own, to explore her talents and potential, to be an active citizen in the society; to truly live, rather than merely exist.
Another inspiration for me has been Zoya Ishaq, another IVLP alumna, who initiated SHE, a campaign to celebrate womanhood in Pakistan. Although younger than me, Zoya inspired me to take the plunge and execute what otherwise would have remained mere ideas. She showed faith and belief in me when I didn’t have much of it myself, and she gave me the confidence to go for whatever good I can bring to society, however small it may be. She taught me impact is not just about numbers, but also about depth. As a lead trainer for SHE, I also learned the power of teamwork with Zoya, as we conducted numerous successful programs for women empowerment targeting diverse strata of the society.
Leadership to me means to lead by example, to see problems as opportunities and to see failures as chances for learning and improvement. I believe that each human, in his or her own capacity, is a leader, and the way one leads can either be an inspiration or a disappointment. In my own life, I have been a leader on various occasions. As senior student or head girl of Kinnaird College, I made sure that every council member felt equally valued, respected and heard – these elements being of utmost importance in my eyes. When I started my own venture For a Cause, we had very humble beginnings. Initially, that disturbed and disheartened me. I later realized that if I lose hope and faith in my cause, I would not be able to convince someone else to believe in it. That is when I shifted my focus to the spirit and soul behind the venture; that even if one life is changed for the better, our mission has been accomplished. Leaders need to believe and hold on, especially when the going gets tough.
I have been an active spokesperson on women-related issues and often advocate, mentor and celebrate women who are excelling in their respective fields. I see that the road to reach equitable women’s empowerment is long and tedious, but as a representative of the nonprofit Search for Common Ground said, ”What other choice do we have? We sure cannot quit!” I, too, believe that the only way is the way ahead. We only need to be united, supportive and become one voice against all the hurdles that keep us from realizing our true potential.