There are strong women all around us and we often wonder what their secret to strength is. Most of us assume (often incorrectly) that strength is the result of a healthy family life, a strong support system and just a part of their genetic makeup and personality.
I have heard so many people talking about strong women followed by the comment, “Agar hamien bhi aisa support mila hota tou hum bhi aaj kahan se kahan pohanch gaye hotay!”
However, more often than not, true strength is a result of LACK of support rather than an encouraging environment. Strength comes from years of struggle rather than a golden spoon in one’s mouth. It comes from dedication and the will to transform yourself and your future rather than dependency and complacency.
And this holds true for a woman who decided to break all the shackles that bound her, that constrained her, that held her back from who she was and who she could become. Farida Shahid tells us how she decided to live her life and give her children a better future…at the ripe age of 35-years-old.
In 1995 I was in my 35th year with four children and a marriage that was falling apart. I vividly remember that day – 17th August 1995 – when upon the insistence of a very dear friend that I must get out of the house and do something before I lost my mind completely, I entered the world of Beaconhouse.
I joined their Garden Town Campus in Lahore as an O-Level and Matriculation English Language teacher. It was on a part-time basis since it was basically just a ruse to get out of the house. However, what began as a part-time job to recover my sanity has resulted in me heading two branches today as the principal – Beaconhouse Johar Town Girls and Beaconhouse Johar Town Boys.
Needless to say, the opportunities provided by the system to learn and develop have been immense. Looking back, I recall how shattered my confidence and self-esteem were; whenever I said something in class I would quietly repeat it, not sure if I had spoken correctly. And yet, today, I am amused at times at the way teachers and parents (not to mention students), listen to my suggestions and advice!
Over the course of these 23 years, Beaconhouse has helped me in not only realising my potential but in actually achieving it as well. I have come to firmly believe that it is NEVER too late; all you need is belief in your convictions and a firm faith in Allah that anything and everything which happens has a reason. We just have to have faith and make the most of the cards which are dealt our way.
I have also discovered that parents who do not get along well must separate for the betterment of the children involved. My experience has also made me a firm believer in the importance of education for the girl child because the path to empowerment and financial independence is ONLY through education.
Having said that, in the struggle toward independence and self-discovery, it is important not to forget your abilities and responsibilities as human beings. Two things I try and follow and encourage my students to do the same are:
One must not compromise on one’s innate goodness.
One must remember to be kind and compassionate.
Follow these and you will find yourself, and on the way to finding yourself, you will experience inner peace as well.
Best of luck!
Thank you Ms. Shahid for the way you turned your life around…for becoming an inspiration not just for your own children but for your students, fellow teachers and all women!
Farida Shahid has been an academic for 23 years, is an English language teacher and the principal at Beaconhouse Johar Town (girls and boys branch).