Pakistan: Mehmooda Salim Khan

At 91, and after a life as a diplomat's wife, Mehmooda Salim Khan has been a committed social worker for the past six decades, working today with tuberculosis patients.

— Mehmooda Salim Khan

Few people in their 90s are fortunate enough to lead as active and socially engaged a life as Mehmooda Salim Khan, who retains her unflagging interest in the causes that have dominated her life for the past six decades, especially the care of people suffering from tuberculosis. Starting out as the wife of a civil servant, Mehmooda embarked on a remarkable career as a social worker and politician after her husband's death, even though this was a period of great difficulty for her and her family.

One of the rare women of her generation to have received a university education, Mehmooda Salim Khan (born 1913) went to school in the Indian town of Aligarh. She studied at the elite Aligarh Muslim Girl's College, and graduated from Queen Mary College, Lahore. Her marriage to Abdul Salim Khan, at 21, took her to Pakistan's remote North West Frontier Province (NWFP), where he was posted, and later catapulted her into a very different life, as she accompanied her husband for nine years on diplomatic postings in Colombo, San Francisco, Tokyo, New York, and London. Mehmooda's life changed when her husband died in London in 1957. She moved with her three children to Abbotabad in the NWFP, where she lives today. She not only looked after her own children, but took up a range of issues that included the care of tuberculosis patients in this rugged and archconservative region of Pakistan. Today, Mehmooda runs a tuberculosis clinic in Abbotabad as well as rehabilitation centers for tuberculosis patients and other poor people of the area, where they are taught how to cut and sew garments and weave carpets. She has also worked with refugees, helping them overcome their trauma at the horrors of conflict, and lead normal lives. She has been actively involved with the work of family planning organizations, the activities of the Red Crescent Society in Pakistan, and has helped young orphans in the region through her work with the SOS Children's Villages. Apart from social work, Mehmooda also served for three years as a functionary in the government of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), first as education minister and then as minister for health.

Red Crescent Society in Pakistan SOS Children's Villages