Pakistan: TEDxIslamabad brings alive stories of struggles and triumphs

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Pakistan recently supported TEDxIslamabad in organizing a Salon event, "Celebrating Heroes of Life". The event, which focused on promoting new ideas and innovations in the fields of health, disaster response and physical rehabilitation among others, featured talks by a select group of speakers who shared stories about their personal successes, frustrations and hard-won insights about their humanitarian work with the audience.

Dr Sarah Saeed Khurram, the force behind Sehat Kahani, an all-female telemedicine provider, spoke of the "doctor-wives" phenomenon – where women with medical degrees are highly sought-after marriage prospects, but are often barred from practicing medicine for social or cultural reasons. Sehat Kahani brings these doctors back into the workforce by engaging them to practice over the phone, enabling them to contribute to the health-care sector from their homes.

In another session, Sharmeen Khan, a psychologist by profession, chose to highlight the occupational hazard of "compassion fatigue" that humanitarian workers are susceptible to. She explained it as a state of emotional burnout that leads to desensitization towards human suffering. Drawing on her experiences of participating in rescue missions in the wake of natural disasters, Sharmeen emphasized the need to pay attention to one's own mental health and well-being while doing humanitarian work.

Irfan Ullah Wazir, a wheelchair tennis and badminton champion, inspired the audience with the passion and conviction he brought to his story – starting from his injury to the process that eventually led to him being a wheelchair tennis champion.

Dr Ejaz Ahmad Khan, a disaster management specialist, talked about his experience of heading a crisis response team, elaborating on the importance of preparedness and explained how a split-second decision could endanger or save thousands of lives.

The evening concluded with a talk and performance by Orooj-e-Zafar, a stand-up comedian, poet and medical student, who detailed her story of overcoming trauma and abuse through a spoken word performance.

Videos on the TEDxIslamabad talks here.