In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and postponement of our International Women’s Day celebration, the Women’s Activities Portfolio shares food for thought on how to build resilience in the face of adversity.

International Women’s Day (IWD) was founded to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women across the world. This is an important occasion to commemorate because of the struggles the entire gender has, and is, facing on a daily basis. This is why the Women’s Activity Portfolio (WAP) chose to make resilience the theme for our IWD 2020 celebration. Whilst the event has been postponed, we still wanted to share our thoughts to spark a conversation and thought process around building resilience within yourself and your family.

We as individuals, families, the Ismaili community and global community are currently facing the greatest worldwide crisis seen this decade. For many members of the Jamat, this will be the most fear, uncertainty and panic they’ve felt in their lifetime. We each have a part to play in supporting ourselves and our spiritual sisters and brothers through this time, to remain positive in the face of such adversity. The Coronavirus Support Team (CST) is a wonderful example of this. Whilst there is much to this pandemic we cannot control, building a resilient mindset and taking steps to overcome our worries is well within our reach.

What does resilience mean?

The definition of this buzzword can vary for different people - a common meaning is “the ability to adapt in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress”. Indeed, Covid-19 fits the profile of a stressor. Yet, so do many other aspects of life that are still present and shouldn’t be overlooked at this time: work pressures, financial management, raising children, mental and physical health.

Our IWD panelists were set to share their personal experiences of overcoming adversity and how these influenced what resilience means for them. Until you can hear from them in the flesh, here’s a little more about them and how they define resilience in their own words:


Azmina Airi is VP of Finance for Dow Jones, a mother and a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in 2016, fortunately recovered and has continued to thrive and remain positive in her personal and professional roles.

“Resilience is not about being tough, stoic, or being unable to show emotion but more so accepting of what life throws at you with open arms, not questioning ‘why me?’ or ‘it shouldn't have happened to me!’. I'm not one to wallow - it’s being able to take the worst of situations, get through it, learn from it and make myself and the world a better place because of it.”


Dr Akbar Lalani is a doctor, energy practitioner and motivational speaker. He experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following his time in the British Army serving on the front line in Afghanistan. Through extensive study of healing techniques, he successfully cured himself and has moved on to sharing his ability with women who are seeking support.
“Resilience is a state of being, derived from a belief in yourself and your ability to overcome obstacles in life.”


Dr Charlotte Proudman is an award-winning barrister, Feminist and #MeToo pioneer. She publically speaks out about and against sexism she’s faced in the workplace, and uses her legal expertise to fight female genital mutilation.

“Resilience and tenacity are essential qualities for women to make it in male dominated professions. But, we must understand that resilience focuses on changing individual attitudes and behaviours, it’s part of the “lean in” culture.”


How can we build resilience?

Just as the meaning of resilience can vary, so too can the tools you need to build resilience in your life; there is no one solution for everyone for every source of stress. Here are a few tips we suggest to explore what works for you:

1. Define what resilience means to you
Take some time to digest the definitions above and create your own. Think about when you or your role models have overcome challenges and become stronger for it. Perhaps have a brainstorm with your family. Write your definition down and stick it up on your fridge, or keep it in a note on your phone. This can serve as a reminder to yourself that you already have the ability to adapt to what life throws at you; you just need to tap into it and support others in doing the same.

2. Invest time in your spiritual wellbeing
Faith can be an invaluable source of strength. In the absence of Jamatkhana, keep regular time in your day to pray or meditate with no other distractions. This can give your mind a much needed break from all the thoughts and concerns it’s processing, and help you to feel connected to something bigger. This break and perspective can help clarify what is really causing you stress so you can begin considering how to manage it.
Check out the mindfulness video from the Aga Khan Health Board here

3. Learn from your daily experiences
Identify which experiences, big or small, seem to strengthen or weaken your resilience. Each day, take five minutes at dinner or before bed to share or write down what made you feel good that day; what you are appreciative of. Then spend some time discussing or journalling what made you feel drained that day. Try to accept these feelings instead of beating yourself up - we’re only human. Ask yourself why these experiences felt negative and how you can reframe them next time. Balance is key - acknowledge the lows and celebrate the highs. 

Although we cannot celebrate IWD in person right now, we can still be proactive in finding ways to explore this year’s theme. Take some time to congratulate the girls and women in your life for their achievements and find out what you can do to support them with the stresses they face, regardless of your gender.

Remember, we are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, behaviours and mindsets impact our wider Ismaili and global society. Collectively, we can make change happen. So use this time of social distancing to start a conversation (virtually!), plan your daily habits and take action to build resilience, challenge stereotypes and create a more equal world for us and future generations.

All together, we can.

If you are finding life in Coronavirus lockdown difficult and want someone to speak to, please contact the CST, whose details can be found by clicking here.