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Shanza Akmal: Pursuit of Financial Independence

“What good is it to have a belly if there’s no fire in it? Wake up, drink your passion, light a match and get to work.” ~ Simon Sinek

Grief, loss, and pain can create bitter, toxic people. But Shanza’s story is not defined by her loss. Instead, her story is that of resilience, courage and a heart of gold.

Shanza is that popular kid that we’ve all encountered and secretly aspired to be in school - a high achiever, at the forefront of all extracurricular activities, forever surrounded by friends. Her juniors describe her as one of the most approachable people on campus whom they looked up to as their saviour in times of crisis.

It’s hard to imagine that behind all that zeal and unwavering passion, is an unimaginable tragedy. Shanza was only 3 years old, her sister just an infant, when her father passed away. She was too young to process the loss of her father then but grew up fighting the consequences. It may have been hard but she did it with so much courage and grace, it’s almost impossible to tell.

Her mother was unable to financially support two young girls, and so Shanza and her sister were adopted by her paternal uncle. Her uncle, whom she now calls dad, left no opportunity to cheer for her, encourage her and support her. Soon, Shanza was participating and often winning every debating contest at school. She was on the student council and later became the class representative. Every little win and the recognition she started to receive from a very early age, made her want to do even better next time. It instilled in her a very strong sense of achievement and the desire to continue pushing forward against all odds.

Despite all the appreciation and support, Shanza experienced the ‘curfew’. Most, if not all, girls in Pakistan know what that is like. Shanza had to work really hard to build her family’s trust in her and allow her to do something she loved - organising and participating in events, most of which meant staying out after university hours or later in the evenings. It took a lot of work explaining how her interest in events contributed to her career goals. But once she had proved herself and gained the family’s trust, there was no stopping her.

Having seen financial adversity, Shanza resolved to be financially independent sooner than most people start thinking about it. She wanted to give her sisters a fighting chance at their dreams without having to go through the same struggles she did. She started giving tuition to collect funds to attend events. She recalls her first Tedx Islamabad event. To her, back then, it was no less than making a trip to space. When she finally got accepted as a participant, she discovered amazing people. She realised how learning from their experiences gave her a new perspective and higher purpose. Thereon, she developed her love for networking. She would go to events, talk to people, and collect business cards - almost like a hobby. She would find each person she met at an event on facebook, connect with them and introduce herself to them. Slowly her Facebook newsfeed became this treasure of people sharing their experiences for her to learn from.

All her passion, her eagerness to succeed, her will to keep moving forward, to keep learning erupts from the underlying belief that she has to be an independent woman, who is financially stable and able to look after herself and her needs. She saw her mother struggle enough after her father’s passing to devote herself to taking her siblings and herself on this road to financial independence. All her hard work and that fire inside her to make something of herself has paid off. Today she is working as a Project Manager at one of the world’s top IT firms, Kyndryl by IBM. She set out to give her siblings a much better life than she went through, and by being this amazing role model, she taught them and others around her to fight their own struggles with honor and courage, through resilience and positivity.

We are amazed by Shanza’s strength and are proud and honored to celebrate her.

Some people are knocked down by challenges but they return as a stronger person, more steadfast, more resilient than before. They experience overwhelming adversity but have the ability to perceive situations through a positive lens and emerge with confidence, courage and a contagious smile.

At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.
~ Frida Kahlo


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