“My work has given my life a meaningful purpose”
When Shazia was studying at university, her professor came across a job opening at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and encouraged Shazia to apply. Shazia wasn’t interested because she wanted to become a scientist, but agreed to do the interview. Today she is the ICRC’s Head of Logistics in the Khartoum delegation. “I joined as a secretary in a dispatch unit, thinking that it was a summer job and that I would stay just to make a bit of pocket money for a few months. I never imagined that this would be the beginning of my career at the ICRC.”
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“From the first day, my supervisors and colleagues in Peshawar really pushed me out of my comfort zone. They assigned me tasks that I was not experienced in and were there to help me when I needed it. It was very encouraging. I felt I was given room to grow and now I’ve been here almost sixteen years. I have been lucky to work with supportive colleagues and managers throughout my career who gave me room to play and develop my skills. The support of my team members has given me a lot of strength. They have been a driving force in the challenging path I’ve followed, and they have given me lots of encouragement, trust and inspiration.”

“When I started working for the ICRC, Peshawar was a very conservative place. There were many people who were opposed to women joining the workforce, even in my own family. My father on the other hand, really believed in me. He encouraged me to attend university. I was the first woman to do so in my family.” Now, many of Shazia’s sisters, cousins and nieces have followed in her footsteps and gone to university. “I think I opened the door for other women in my family to pursue higher education and a career. It just takes one person to set an example and pave the way for more representation.”

“When I joined the ICRC in 1999, we were only three women working in the Peshawar Logistics Center. Logistics in general was not a field where many women were present. Many of my colleagues were very surprised to find a young Pakistani woman in my role. I faced quite a lot of resistance from older and more experienced male colleagues, who were not comfortable with the fact that a young woman was climbing the ranks. They challenged the decisions that were made regarding my promotions and the training opportunities I was given, but the Head of Logistics supported me. From my side, I also opened up to having constructive conversations with those who questioned my abilities to decrease their concerns.”

One example of this happened during Shazia’s first support mission, when she was put in charge of managing all the operations and dispatch of goods in Darfur. “One convoy truck driver regularly arrived late on purpose, which meant that we were not able to dispatch goods to our affected people on time. When I asked him why he was delayed so often, he admitted there was no reason but indirectly inferred that he was not used to taking orders from a female. I told him to put his pride aside, stop thinking of my directions as orders, but rather concentrate on the importance of the work we are doing. I reminded him that he had come all the way from his home country to help people in need. The goods he was transporting were vital to the people we wanted to reach. He understood that him not performing well at his job was not hurting me, but our beneficiaries. Once he understood that, we started getting along very well!”

Shazia was always drawn to the humanitarian cause and as a child she used to save her pocket money to give to less fortunate people in her city. By joining the ICRC, her passion for the humanitarian cause only got stronger. “My career with the ICRC satisfied my ambition to travel and work around the world while contributing to a noble cause. It has given my life a meaningful purpose, which satisfies both my personal ambitions and my organization’s vision.”

“Growing up I wanted to become a scientist to explore the hidden treasures in nature and use them to further the welfare of mankind. Working in logistics, I see that I can do this in this field too, by thinking outside the box and being creative in how we respond to the different needs of the people. Now, I feel like I am like a scientist who has discovered the joy of working with and through others. My science is no longer biology, but rather people- their motives, feelings, and ideas - and my mission is to find ways to help humans achieve great things together.”

Shazia Nawaz

ICRC, 1999

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Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine, January-April 1990

“The women of Castiglione nursed and soothed the wounded soldiers, ut when the Red Cross was born, no women were in attendance. Today women are still nursing the wounded... But are they in on the decision making?”

– IFRC Everyone Counts Report, 2019

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