The International Day of the Girl is round the corner, so I thought of sharing a story of an inspiring young Pakistani girl. No, I am not taking about Malala, but she is as inspiring as her but unfortunately not known by the rest of the world.
This is the story of Arfa Karim Randhawa, a girl born in Faisalabad, Pakistan in 1995. She was only 5 years old when she first saw a computer in her school. Fascinated by it, she demanded her father, who used to work in United Nations Peace keeping force, to buy her a computer. Her dad granted her the wish and bought her a computer. Her father observed her extraordinary skills in using the computer and decided to enroll her in an IT education and training institute near their home in Faisalabad.
She was a fast learner and she excelled at the institute. The management of the institute recommended her father that she should seek for Microsoft certification since she was ready for it. In 2004, after few months of continuous study in the summer break, she successfully passed the Microsoft certification exam and became the youngest ever Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), just at the age of 9. This not only surprised her family, the management of the institute but also bewildered the Microsoft team. They couldn’t believe a girl only at the age of 9 could pass the exam when many adults after years of hardwork couldn’t pass the test.
This caught the attention of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. He invited Arfa and her parents to visit the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Bill Gates and Arfa talked about various things that day. Bill Gates was impressed with her intelligence and commended her confidence. Arfa asked him many questions that day, like why people her age couldn’t work for Microsoft, why aren’t there many females working in the big IT companies and suggested there should be gender equality in large corporations.
Upon her return from the US, she became an icon in Pakistan. She was interviewed by various channels, invited to various international conferences and summits and also received awards from the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan. She notably is also the youngest recipient of the Pride of Performance award in Pakistan. In 2006, Microsoft invited her to be the key note speaker at the Tech-Ed developers conference which was held in Barcelona.
She had big dreams and ambitions. She wanted to graduate from an Ivy League school and work as a software developer. Unfortunately she died in 2004 due to a heart attack, at the young age of 16. She might not be with us but her legacy will always remain with us.
In her honor, the government of Pakistan built a science and technology park in the her name in Lahore, Pakistan. It’s called the Arfa Software Technology Park and now the brightest minds in the field of science and technology are training there.
There are many inspiring stories of young girls changing the world, we just need to look around us. This is only possible due to education. It’s unfortunate that in some parts of the world, girls are still deprived of good quality education.
This post was originally posted here: http://www.voicesofyouth.org/en/posts/arfa-karim—inspiring-girl-from-pakistan