The inspiring story of Safira Bibi, who born blind in Yasin, Ghizer and became the first blind student from Pakistan…
My name is Safira, derived from the word Safir which literally means Ambassador. I have completed my Master’s degree in communication and aim to learn more before I could serve the blind community. I want to make policy level difference so that to provide every blind child/youth an opportunity to read, write and represent his/her identity without any hesitance, so that they may not have to experience the very same problems which I did
I was born and raised in a small village of Gilgit Baltistan (Northern Region of Pakistan). I was born blind and was registered sight impaired when I was seven years old. Being legally blind I could not attend any regular school because back then, there were no such facilities available for children with special needs. My parents brought me to Karachi in 2005 for the purpose of getting medical treatment where I’d been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) which is an incurable, hereditary eye disorder.
Born blind, living in limiting atmosphere where one lacks accessibility and mobility, I have always been very disappointed in myself and considered myself a burden to my family and society in general. Being born different in Pakistani context is very difficult because if you are blind not only are you limited to perform actions and participate in social encounters, you are also alienated from the very atmosphere you live in. But part of the problem also lay within me. How can I expect people to accept my disability unless I fully embrace it and make it my strength!
I started my schooling at the age of 11, education brought meaning to my life. I’d attended Ida Rieu school for blind and deaf in Karachi and after my matriculation I was selected for youth exchange program in USA in 2012. Where I took part in different activities to learn about American society and help people learn about my country and culture.
I completed my matriculation in a period of 6 years because I had to compete with the rest of the world. My school provided me with confidence, technical skills and happened to make my world much more accessible than it was ever before. I was befriended with books mostly but I also had friends in school. It was this time of my life when I discovered my singing voice and public speaking skills. Shortly after I ended my school life, I was shortlisted for Youth Exchange Study, making me the first blind student from Pakistan to study in United States under this scholarship.
My experience in America was a defining moment of my life. I represented Pakistan; delivered sessions on Pakistani culture and context; was awarded 1000USD for being best representative of Pakistan, best student of the month, and one of the 8 best students of the year. I had never practiced my autonomy and never experienced freedom in Pakistan. In America, I was able to do laundry, travel on my own, and do my own budgeting. As I return back to my country, I finally realized that Pakistan lacks opportunities for students with visual impairments, and the responsibility of advocating for the opportunities for visual impaired students lies on the shoulders of those who have had the privilege/opportunity to educate themselves. It was then that I began conducting workshops and camps for visually impaired youth on mobility and life skills. Today, I work with multiple NGOs and private institutions to work on advocacy and outreach components of projects particularly dealing with youth with visual impairments. I also conduct sessions to inspire and motivate youth to struggle to achieve their goals. To acknowledge my achievements and efforts, Pakistan media made documentaries on my life called ‘The Daughter of Nation,’ ‘National Hero,’ and ‘Strong Lady.’
I have lost 95% of my sight due to degenerative eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) which affects the retina, causing vision loss as the light sensing cells of the retina gradually deteriorate. But it surely doesn’t contribute to my identity. In Pakistan, people often assume that I may not be able to conduct my daily life by myself and need a sighted person always, I may be incapable of reading or writing independently. But I have a story that shines beyond my sight impairment.
Since 2013, I’ve been involved with different NGOs, managed different projects and conducted workshops for personal development especially for those who are vision impaired, trying to prepare others to learn to survive their new normal, to help them to find their own voice through the process of self-realization and self-worth.
Your vision is your mind’s eye, which is something much bigger than your sight. With vision, even If you can’t see, there is hope, expectation and drive to achieve what you can see in your mind’s eye. Turning off the lights will make you unable to catch sight of anything around, no matter how much clear-sighted you are. Your vision then will help you to see the challenges and the solution that reside within you. Make your vision clear and look beyond your eyes to see the possibilities.
2020- Our team won $1000 by “UNICEF generation limited youth challenge” to develop a Mobile App for visually impaired professionals to assist them with walking, reading and color identification at the workplace.
2020- Bridge The Gap – Job oriented training and placement for visually impaired.
2019- Present – Inclusive Education in Gilgit Baltistan – Inclusive teaching and learning for children with visual impairment.
2019- Present – The Abbasi Foundation – Working as an ambassador for women’s economic empowerment.
2019- Binae Foundation – Worked as a trainer/instructor for personal development of those who are visually impaired.
2019- We Are One – 1 month training program – personal development and inclusivity of visually impaired.
2019- Represented Pakistan in an inclusivity workshop organized by U.S State Department in South Africa.
2017- Orientation & Mobility – Conducted 6 months training program in Ida Rieu For Blind and Deaf, which focused on training students who are visually impaired with safe and effective travel through their environment.
2017- President of Special Women Wing of Pakistan Debating Society.
2016- Art Program for visually impaired – 3 days workshop, based on creative activities to allow youngsters who are visually impaired to paint their imagination.
2015- Kar Dikhao – Training program with I Am Karachi on problem solving skills
2014- Let’s Become Independent – Organized a workshop for mobility, orientation and personal development of visually impaired in Ida Rieu School For Blind And Deaf
2013- How To Live A Productive Life – conduct one month training program in Yasin, Gilgit Baltistan
2018- Featured in Documentary “Qaumi Hero” by Mobile Pakistan.
2015- Honoured with “Qaum Ki Beti” title by “I Am Karachi”.
2013- “Best Representative of The Year” by U.S Department.
2013- Awarded “Best Student of The Month” by Youth Exchange And Study Program in U.S.
2013- “Best Representative of Pakistan” by Kentucky Lions Club.
2013- Won Interstate Public Speaking Competition “Forensic” in U.S.
Bridge The Gap- Job oriented tranning and placement for visually impaired.Won award by “UNICEL generation limited youth challenge” to develop a Mobile App. Got selected for Global Inclusivity Workshop in Accra, Ghana Did 6 months long project with blind adult on self-grooming. Carried a month-long project called WE ARE ONE.
Worked as a Sindh Special women Wing president in 2017. Worked 5 months on ORIENTATION AND MOBILITY. Arranged a session on smart parenting.
Organized a series of workshops with Blind Student. Recogized (Daughter of Nation) by I AM KARACHI. Carried out six weeks long project.
Represented my country by public speaking. Recognized Best Student of the year by US Department. Organize different sessions for different people.
Main University Rd, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh 75270.
Ahmed Munir (S.J، Sarwar Shaheed Rd, Saddar, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh 74400
1867 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206, United States
Numaish, Nizami Road, Adjacent Quaid-e-Azam Mausoleum، Central Jacob Lines, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh