Source article : By MAMOSA Report by Irshad Salim www.pkonweb.com ” MEET HELEN KELLER OF PAKISTAN: SAIMA SALEEM, THE BLIND CSS OFFICER DIPLOMAT ABROAD “
Saima Saleem is a woman of substance as Pakistan’s first blind civil servant working at the country’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
The visually challenged diplomat is the Second Secretary on Human Rights. How did she get there? Collective wisdom pervading Pakistan would point to the “obvious”: Taaluqaat (connections, networking, etc). Not Saima. She managed to break the glass ceiling, on her terms.
Saima, 32, joined Foreign Service of Pakistan in 2009 and holds an M. Phil degree in English Literature. She is the country’s first blind civil servant who obtained sixth position all over the country and stood first among female candidates in the CSS examinations.
Saima was the most outstanding student at her school. Due to academic excellence, she was given a gold medal in Bachelors and Master by Kinnaird College University for Women. For the first time in Pakistan, all her exams were conducted in Braille because she fought for her rights and refused to appear in exams with the help of a writer who could mar her future due to negligence and lack of capacity. After her Masters, she decided to appear in the CSS exams with the resolve to become the first blind Civil Servant of Pakistan.
At first, FPSC refused to conduct Saima’s exam because she requested for a computer-based exam which had never been conducted in Pakistan. Through a divine intervention and her relentless pursuits, her wish was granted and the President of Pakistan then ordered FPSC to conduct a computer-based exam. It is pertinent to mention that she uses Screen-Reader software (JAWS) for working independently on the computer and software for scanning the books and other material for reading.
Through an ordinance, Federal Public Services Commission had only allowed disabled candidates to choose only four occupational groups – Accounts, Commerce, Information and Postal. Once again, Saima refused to accept this discriminatory treatment and chose Foreign Service for she had always wanted to become a diplomat and represent Pakistan. Rules had to face defeat in front of her indomitable resolve and the Prime Minister allowed her to join Foreign Service on merit.
After joining Foreign Service, Saima topped all trainings and exams and was given another Gold Medal by Foreign Service Academy. In addition, she won a Fulbright Scholarship and went to study at the prestigious School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University in the USA. Upon joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, due to her passion to improve human rights in the country, Saima developed expertise in human rights and had been working on human rights issues for the last five years.
Helen Keller of the 21st century is the face of Pakistan!
During his visit to Switzerland to participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos, PM Nawaz Sharif paid tribute to the woman diplomat for her courage and dedication.
He lauded the commitment of Saima Saleem, who he said was not deterred by her disability in discharge of her official duties while serving at an important position in Geneva since 2013.
The PM wished Saima Saleem the best for her professional life and expressed confidence that with her steadfastness, she would continue to promote Pakistan’s positive image abroad.