Meet Zenith Irfan, Pakistan’s First Solo Muslim Woman Biker
Ever been told you couldn’t do something because it’s a “man’s job”? It’s time to shut the haters. For Women’s Day, we present you stories about women who’re acing conventionally male-dominated jobs and smashing ‘StreeOtypes’ along the way!
Pakistan isn’t exactly famous for giving equal rights to women; a lot of people who aren’t not from Pakistan may think that it’s entirely unsafe for them – especially if they’re women travellers. However, there is one particular woman I’m acquainted with, who through her courageous exploits, has always broken those stereotypes and has lived life on her own terms.
Zenith Irfan is Pakistan’s first Muslim female solo bike rider who biked alone to the northern areas of Pakistan, showing the world that Pakistani Muslim women aren’t invisible in society.
I’ve known Zenith for a while – long before she became popular for her inspiring motorcycle journeys.
We were schoolfellows at a high school for O and A Levels named KIMS (Keynesian Institute of Management Sciences) in Lahore, Pakistan, where she was senior to me. Since then, we’ve been in touch through our social media accounts.
Last year, a biopic was made on her motorcycle journey titled Motorcycle Girl, which starred one of Pakistan’s leading actresses Sohai Ali Abro as Zenith.
For Women’s Day, I engaged my old acquaintance Zenith in a lively conversation about her biking exploits and what it all means to her. Here are some excerpts:
How do you feel about the popularity that you’ve garnered after your trailblazing motorcycle journey?
I don’t consider myself famous. I’d rather say that I’m popular amongst some people (youngsters and primarily biking enthusiasts and travellers) – but not ‘famous’, as when I go out, not a lot of people recognise me until I tell them who I am. But yes, I do feel a sense of responsibility as a Muslim woman in Pakistan.
Can you elaborate on the sense of responsibility you just mentioned?
It includes the careful choice of words on social media from my side as a young Muslim woman, the kind of audience I’m targeting, everything I’m showcasing to the people as a Pakistani woman who is Muslim, because my country has been portrayed in a very negative light in the global media for many years. Through my motorcycle journey, I’m living and fulfilling my father’s legacy and telling the world that Pakistan is a safe place to travel to because if I, as a woman, can do it, then they can too.
What are your future plans? How do you plan to take the conversation forward?
I would love to write a book about my motorcycle journey and open up a company that provides other bike riders and biking enthusiasts the platform to start riding. And if I can find a way, I would love to turn my motorcycle riding into a career. If I’m not able to do that – well, I’m currently studying Marketing and Finance (BBA Hons) from Lahore School of Economics and also have great interest in Digital Marketing so I might become a digital marketer and use my degree.
(Sarmad Iqbal is a Pakistani blogger, writer, columnist and student who has a penchant for reading, writing, learning languages and studying cultures. He tweets @sarmadiqbal7.)