-‘Disability is not a curse’-
Giving up should not be an option. It’s ruthless, it’s hard, it’s cruel to yourself but by the end, you become what you want you to be. A winner.
Disabilities may present challenges, but many people can and do enjoy full, productive lives. Tanzila Khan, born with a deformity in both her legs, is a well-known motivational speaker both nationally and internationally.
At 16, Tanzila Khan published her first book, ‘A story of Mexico’ and then sold her novel to aid the earthquake victims of Pakistan. Her second novel is, ‘The Perfect Situation’ and she launched her third book, ‘Surpassing Limits’ at an international book fair bragging 1.23 million visitors and over $36 million in a book sale in 11 days.
Khan has set up initiatives and hopes to become an advocate for women empowerment and wants to help others understand the importance of ramp installments to facilitate the handicapped.
Tanzila also wants to encourage those living with the disability to embrace their abilities, just as she has.
You are not the torch bearer of anyone’s ‘izzat’. You are a person with thoughts and feelings. Whoever wants ‘izzat’. Please ask them to get it through their own deeds. That’s how it works’
Here, to tell us about her experience of living with disability and her journey towards being a successful motivational speaker, DNA emailed a set of interview questions to Tanzila Khan and the following response to the mailed questions is unabridged.
DNA: Tell us something about yourself; your childhood and perhaps something not many people know?
Tanzila Khan: I changed many schools when I was young. Sometimes it was the bathroom door or library on the first floor or computer lab on the ground floor or just the distance from the entrance to the classroom. These hurdles came because of little accessibility in all of the schools. But I guess it made me start an accessibility campaign later in life so I would count it as a win.
DNA: How did the deformity change your mental perception towards life?
TK: The deformity didn’t, it was the society that did. Some people made me feel as if I was a curse on my family or on myself. On the contrary, some made me believe that life was more than mobility and I needed to follow my dreams.
DNA: When was the time you decided that I could be a change maker while breaking stereotypes?
TK: From a very young age I always felt great to suggest something positive to others and seeing the impact of it. The harsh reality is, as a disabled individual you don’t have ideals. No one to get any inspiration from, learn from their mistakes. So I knew I had to make enough mistakes for people with disabilities to learn from. So you pick up the responsibility for yourself. So it all started subconsciously until I reached a real platform.
DNA: Who’s your greatest inspiration and why?
TK: I have been greatly inspired my Hazrat Umar Farooq (RA). I found him to have great leadership abilities and he was surely a man of skill. I try to picture him in a situation where I get stuck and then try to do what he would have done.
DNA: What was one of your most defining moments in life that motivated you to do what you do?
TK: That would be when I was accepted to attend the Asian Youth Summit in India by Global Change makers. It was a summit sponsored by the British Council. Only 60 youngsters from Asia and Pacific were chosen. It became a defining moment for me. It made me realise that I can be more than what people perceive of me. I felt passionate and ready to take bigger challenges.
DNA: Do you believe that your motivational speech influences people from all walks of life? How?
TK: The truth is I never got up on stage as I was put there by the people themselves. I was an author and then the lead of my organisation. But when people wanted to hear me out, I told them the truth. I guess that is what works when we speak the truth. We talk about stereotypes, stigmas, taboo areas, society, gender, and politics honestly that’s when we connect with people. I would express when I am questioned or invited and that has never stopped since it started.
DNA: Do you think your journey till here can be inspirational to others?
TK: I would say not yet, let’s not set our standards too low. I still need to do something much bigger for my country, for my people to actually benefit from. Then I will have the privilege of appreciation. But before that, I don’t think I am inspirational just because ‘I am disabled.’ I am merely doing my job.
DNA: Your ‘ramp movement’ is a highly acclaimed movement. Give us a brief insight into the success story of the movement.
TK: Ramp Movement is all about bringing accessibility in Pakistan which is important not just for disabled individuals but elders, sick or anyone else. So it’s a nation’s issue and not just for myself. Wait till the CEO of that huge plaza meets an accident and tries to enter his own building. So if we all don’t speak up for accessibility, we are putting our own dignities at risk for the future. We are then responsible for being dependents.
DNA: Tell us a little about the campaign ‘Lemonade with Tanzila Khan’.
TK: In ‘Lemonade with Tanzila Khan’ we conduct sessions with women about empowerment and life. It’s very informal and done for the sake of women to support other women and create a support group for each other.
DNA: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
TK: Coming so far is in itself something I can give a small pat to myself for. There has been so many a time one has to fall and getting up becomes a challenge. But then giving up should not be an option. It’s ruthless, it’s hard, it’s cruel to yourself but by the end, you become what you want you to be. A winner.
DNA: Tell us a little about your future plans?
TK: I plan to publish my autobiography soon and also continue with the Ramp Movement.
DNA: You are a living example of “empowered independent women.” Any piece of advice you would like to give to the women of today?
TK: You are not the torch bearer of anyone’s ‘izzat’. You are a person with thoughts and feelings. Whoever wants ‘izzat’. Please ask them to get it through their own deeds. That’s how it works’.