Nine Ismaili nurses and midwives have been honoured in the World Health Organization’s 100 Outstanding Nurses and Midwives list, in recognition of their vital role in providing health services. Throughout their careers, they have worked to promote women’s health and empowerment in their respective regions and beyond.

The list of 100 outstanding health leaders features nine members of the Jamat, many of whom were educated at the Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery.

Nursing was the very first academic programme offered by the Aga Khan University (AKU). Upon receiving the Archon Award In Denmark in 2001, Mawlana Hazar Imam explained why.

“I have long felt the enhancement of the nursing profession to be absolutely critical to the improvement of health care in the developing world, and the Islamic world,” he said. “The way forward there was to professionalise, to institutionalize and to dignify this great profession.” 

Since the large majority of nurses in the developing world are women, AKU aimed to promote the field of nursing, and women professionals in general, so as to empower them, and increase their standing in society.

Graduates of AKU have since gone on to make significant and sustained contributions to the health and welfare of society in Pakistan, East Africa, and increasingly further afield. The recent recognition by the WHO is a testament to their service, especially after a particularly challenging year for healthcare workers in responding to the Covid-19 crisis.

Those recognised included AKU faculty members Yasmin Nadeem Parpio, Samina Vertejee, Dr Rozina Karmaliani, and Marina Baig, along with Saima Sachwani. Three SONAM alumni including Dr Shela Hirani, Neelam Punjani, and Sadaf Saleem Murad were also honoured, along with Afghan midwife Shukria Hussaini.