Recently making waves in the international community, 17-year-old Norina Shah’s passion for astronomy has taken her far beyond the confines of Quetta, Balochistan, and put her in touch with a global audience. With a keen eye for star gazing and a Twitter handle (@aneyeforsky), Norina was not only able to receive appreciation from UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, but also from her hundreds of followers on Twitter, where she shared her dream of becoming a young astronomer.

The 2nd year intermediate student of Quetta’s Islamia Girls College received recognition when a feature article was published on her after she was recently interviewed by UK-based Eduzine Global magazine. Following the interview, Norina was appointed as Eduzine’s Global Young Ambassador for South Asia, and was referred to as the “brightest star” on its webpage. She secured the position of 1st runner-up in the Eduzine Global ACE Young Achiever Awards in 2014. To further encourage her to pursue her dreams, Eduzine awarded her with a certificate, as well as a telescope. Eduzine offered Norina the chance to attend a conference related to astronomy in US, which she was unable to go to because of prior commitments related to her academics. She plans to attend the conference in 2017 instead.

The Internet and social media not only helped her get recognition, but also played a key role in giving her in-depth knowledge on astronomy. Her family, especially her father, Mr. Hafeezullah, played a vital part in her inspiring journey, by encouraging her to dream on and motivating her to make her dreams become a reality, and by supporting her in every step of the way. Belonging to a conservative society, her father, nevertheless, encourages her to pursue her higher education abroad, where better opportunities would be available.

In a society where illiteracy and male dominance is prevalent, Shah went against all odds and pursued what she aimed for. With support from her father along every step of the way, a daughter of the nation made us proud on an international scale. Regardless of the stereotypical norms associated with women in a male driven Pakistani society, Norina was able to defy orthodox convention and accomplish her dream.

Innovative, passionate and hardworking people like Shah are not appreciated during the initial stages of their journey, and their talent isn’t recognized by the inhabitants of their own country, which leads to ‘brain drain’. Despite the rigid immigration system, developed countries are successful in attracting the best and brightest of our nation. Therefore, in order to curb this excessive brain drain, our nation needs to recognize and appreciate talented and intellectual people like Shah.

Norina has inspired the women across Pakistan through her stimulating journey and conveyed the message that, if given the right platform, women have the potential to excel in any field. She was not only able to break cultural and gender stereotypes, but was also able to spread a positive image of Pakistan across the globe at such a young age. We wish luck to Norina for her future endeavours in not only projecting a positive image of Pakistan across the world, but also to giving a strong message of women empowerment.