25 February | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

A resilient mother with a heart of gold, strength of iron

'I never had a difficulty with imaging women in role of bread earners, well-educated professionals, successful leaders, and inspiring individuals'

Women are capable of wonders beyond one’s surreal imaginations. At any front of life, women can be seen working tirelessly and especially in the ‘male dominated’ professions. With problems like pay disparity, harassment at work places, they have to face multiple problems before getting recognition. Even a minuscule or a shred of due appreciation has to go through some nasty phases of psychological problems, rooted in the framework of the society.

From working in the close quarters to obtaining their right to have a say in governance, women had to give sacrifices, even when physics, and mathematics were the subjects associated with the males. At that time also women mathematicians and physicists were working without some people recognizing their talents. A lot of tears have gone unacknowledged, and a lot of words have been rendered silent simply because these were the cries of suppressed beings.

Women suffrage was a large scale movement culminated in the late 19th and early 20th century, which demonstrated the highest quality of women activism aiming at equality for womankind of all sorts and the right to vote as well. Especially when general elections just around the corner and political parties are campaigning throughout Pakistan in order to secure as many votes as they possibly can to ensure their victory, one should always keep in mind that there are 49.2% women in this country.

Surreya Ujagar proved herself as embodiment of independent woman

Obviously not all of total women are eligible voters, however, it is a rather huge figure that cannot be ignored, especially for the politicians who know that every last vote will matter so they remain inclusive of policies and plans that are women-representation-friendly. Today’s generation should never forget the women activists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) and Carrie Catt (1859-1947) of suffrage movement, it is the fruit of their efforts that today women have a right to cast vote around the world.

The women suffrage was indeed a significant milestone in the fight for gender equality. It paved the way for greater political participation and representation for women in many parts of the world. Be it the role of a loving mother, a loyal wife, a social worker, an educationist, and whatnot, I just happen to know one such woman with a heart of gold and the strength of iron, she is my mother. Her name is Surreya Ujagar, hailing from Faisalabad, belonging to very humble beginnings, she worked hard to get education in her rural household.

My grandparents, although not well-educated, were finely civilized folks, who let my mother follow her passion of becoming a theologian. She cleared her basic education up till intermediate and joined Pakistan Fellowship of Evangelical Students (PFES) from an early age as she considered it to be her calling to learn about the holy scripture and teach other people. Along with her secular education, she actively pursued her social activities. She did her Bachelors in Arts and soon after she got married to my father, late Edwin Amir Anwar, she did her Bachelors in Education and started a bible study group of families in Jhelum city.

I still have memories from when I was still a child, my mother used to study at nights, going through her assignments and preparing for her exams, meanwhile taking care of me and my elder sister Zartaj. She later went on to complete her Masters in Arts and Masters in Education meanwhile welcoming my younger brother Shahjahan. She wasn’t just getting her education and raising us along with daily household chores, she was also the then active accountant of Shalom Christian Center in Jhelum, working with the late Edwin Amir Anwar.

My mother’s social and professional life doesn’t just end here, she was still to become a staff member of the Pakistan Fellowship of Evangelical Students, she took OTS classes, organized many seminars and camps related to marriage counseling, importance of education in downtrodden communities, interfaith harmony, etc. She worked as a teacher at St Benedict’s School and St Thomas High School in Jhelum. In the later part of her life, she ran her own school, under the name of Eva School of Excellence, before suffering brain hemorrhage. She had to take a pause from her activities, however she continued to lead her bible study group just the same and this monthly study group along with her other teaching related activities is one of those things that never left her after her repeating illnesses and multiple surgeries.

In 2020, after my father passed away in a tragic-forever-damaging incident, she suffered the most from what came afterwards. Being on the verge of death herself due to various physical and mental set-backs, she still recovered and is with me by the grace of Almighty God. She has her own small business start-ups, such as the unstitched collection of seasonal women wear that she happily sells to women in her circle and even beyond her social circle. Other than that there is a stall of chips that she runs by herself to support kitchen expenses. Then she cooks and supplies organic ketchup on order to many fast food shops in Jhelum. She supports my educational endeavors and my own small start-ups.

I have always pictured her as an embodiment of an independent woman, so I never had a difficulty with imaging women in the role of bread earners, well-educated professionals, successful leaders, and inspiring individuals. I and my mother have a co-dependent relationship where we both contribute in supporting our household in many ways. If this heart is not the heart of the gold and if her resilience is not sturdier than iron itself, I don’t know what else fits the above mentioned statement. I still wonder in amazement sometimes as to how can she be able to do so much with her life, it still bewilders my simple mind to this day.