To celebrate International Women’s Day, WASE acknowledges the contributions of women in the workplace. We caught up with our very own Faryal Rohail, Project Manager at WASE – confident to advocate her ideas. Read how she breaks gender stereotypes, went against the odds, and shows remarkable resilience. 

When did you first realise that female empowerment is vital to you?  

From the moment I opened my eyes to a family of strong women – each with great moral values, forward-thinking, and ambitions. They raised me and shaped me into the person that I am today. I learned a lot through their immense struggles and breakthroughs. By the way, I am referring to about a dozen women serving the health sector across Pakistan.  

Later, during my undergrad, I represented my country, Pakistan, in a young women leadership programme in Boston called Empower Peace  that’s when I realised my true potential and started thinking big! I promised myself that whatever I chose to do, I would ensure that I empowered other women. I knew that if I wanted to help others, I would need to be in a better position, and my window would be through world-class education. 

With time, I have refinemy vision to strengthen rural communities, mainly women, to ensure their equal participation in designing creative solutions to the challenges they face and ultimately making this world a better place for themselves and future generations. 

You say that at WASE, you are pursuing your passion – could you explain that to me?  

Like my own, WASE’s visions are deeply embedded in sustainable development, and I am fortunate that we both have found each other (I feel like Rock Dog  have you watched the film?).  

Being part of the WASE team, I am contributing to a big mission – accelerating the global adoption of the circular economy. It is also a platform where I can demonstrate my capabilities, realise my true potential, and get such a great sense of achievement.  

For example, as a start-up company, WASE has the potential for setting up procedures and doing things right from the very beginningOn the other hand, I am encouraged to execute my ideas. Lately, I have been involved in developing our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion policy and setting up the in-house capacity building for a diverse team of Engineers and Scientists.  

Can you name any of the struggles you have had to face in getting to where you are today?  

When I got married and moved to the UK, the first place my husband took me was to Brunel University and said, “if you want to pursue your career in the same dignified way, you need to top-up” – this was exactly what I wanted, so I said yesThat’s when I started facing terrible opposition.  

People would say that was already highly qualified and that I didn’t need another degree, I could work in retail, and within two years I’d have my own house! Despite that, I applied to the MSc in Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Design at Brunel – not only did I receive an unconditional offer but earned the Brunel International Scholarship Award. Then they said, since wasn’t a national, I would not be entitled to any grant – well, that’s why it’s called the International Scholarship Award. Later, I opted for another MSc in Climate Change and International Development at the University of East Anglia with a scholarship. Once again, I experienced nay-sayers, although this time instead of acknowledging that I am managing both my career and marital life equally well, they said if all I wanted in life was to have one degree after another, then I shouldn’t be getting married in the first place.  

I moved on in life and stopped trying to persuade the nonbelievers. After seven years, I have two degrees from well-renowned universities, and I’m still with my husband (happily married), but most of all, I have a purpose in life that I am continuously building on.  

How do you feel you have broken gender stereotype?  

Pakistan is a major producer of Doctors of Medicineso when I was growing up, there were gender stereotypes that girls go to medical school and boys to engineering. I was the first girl in my family who chose to go to a business school. Coming from a highly educated family, I was given all the support to pursue higher education. However, my decision to pursue this non-standard topic was questioned a lot and, which undermined my self-esteem. For example, I was told that only people who couldn’t make it to medical school opt for subjects such as economics and business; and what career prospects would there be? Working in banks and corporations with men?   

“I was the first girl in my family who went to business school, but not the last” 

Through a series of events in my life – global exposure, interdisciplinary education, and development work, I have built a versatile portfolio of business management, strategic sustainable design thinking, international development, and climate change. It helps me understand the complexity of global development issues and prepared me for my present position.  

Globally, Pakistan ranks 5th both as the populous country and the most vulnerable to climate change. I believe that one day through my work, I’ll make a significant positive impact on the lives of the women of my country!

Faryal Rohail as a Panel Member, conducting Action Plan presentations of the delegates Women2Women Leadership Conference, Boston, USA. 2010

How do you support other women around you? 

I have received incredible support throughout my career, so, I promised to return that generosity to the world.  

In my professional capacity, from training over 200 rural women on life skills in Balochistan, Pakistan to advocating equal participation. Through my knowledge, I contribute to researching, designing, and delivering sustainable solutions.  

I believe that one day, through WASE’s novel wastewater technology, we will be able to reach out to young girls and women in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. With safe toilets and clean energy for cooking, they could thrive rather than survive, and that motivates me every day!  

In my personal capacity, I support the education of young girls in Pakistan. Also, I am always open to assisting youngsters in navigating their career when they reach out to me via social media.  

On International Women’s day, what is the most important piece of advice you’d give to a 16-year-old girl choosing a career?  

would share a five-point road map of success that depicts my journey. Regardless of the path you choose, I am confident you’ll benefit from this:  

  1. Dream big – without any boundaries and don’t set any limitations. 
  2. Do constant self-analysis – analyse your strengths and weaknesses, challenge yourself, go out of your comfort zone and try to fill the gaps.  
  3. Work hard – learn from your failures, never-give-up and be consistent. 
  4. Carry positivity – there will be times when things aren’t in your favour but remain optimistic and think of the end goal. 
  5. Believe in yourself – never let that spark die, and in the end, it will all be yours!   

08.03.2021 | Faryal Rohail