This I Believe

Laila - Seattle, Washington
Entered on December 3, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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One Person Can Make a Difference

I believe that one person can inspire great change, not necessarily through extraordinary efforts, but simply by the way he or she chooses to live life.

I am a writer. Inspired by the courageous work of a Pakistani journalist, who had lived thousands of miles away and whom I had never met, I began the project, profiling and interviewing women achievers from Pakistan, the country where I was born and where I spent my early childhood.

The women about whom I’ve written are writers, artists, filmmakers, activists, and professionals. Whether she is taking on corrupt, yet powerful, politicians through journalistic writing or working for the rights of women and religious minorities or using her art to make social commentary, each woman is an example of individuals who make a difference and I am thankful to all of them for inspiring me, as well as so many others.

The project began as an attempt towards filling an information gap, which I believe still exists in regards to readily available text on the accomplishments of women from Muslim countries. However, as I spoke to and read about women just like me making extraordinary contributions simply by pursuing their passions with a consciousness for how they impacted their society, I, myself was transformed. From being uncertain of my place in this world, I become increasingly confident of my abilities as an individual to contribute to a peaceful and healthy future for our planet.

My simple act of documenting the achievements of women was having an effect, as conveyed to me repeatedly through messages of encouragement and hope I continue to receive from women and men around the world. They write because they are moved by the real life examples of Pakistani women who are far beyond stereotypical – passive or oppressed. Some write because they want to help with the project in some way. Still others write to suggest names and stories of women by whom they themselves have been inspired.

In the current global atmosphere of war and conflict, we are overwhelmed by negative news and often overlook the work that people all around the world are doing to promote peace. The more I read about peace efforts organized by ordinary people, the more I wonder what it would be like if all of us committed ourselves to living conscious lives, aware of how our actions, everything from our jobs to the way we live, affected the lives of others.

As a writer, the tool of my trade is a pen. The more disheartening news of world events I hear, the tighter I hold my pen with the hope that perhaps through my writing, I may contribute, even in a small way, to an increased understanding among people. It is what I feel I owe to a peaceful future for my children.