Saima Saleem speaks during a United Nations General Assembly session in New York on September 25, 2021. Image Credit: Pakistan's UN ambassador

Islamabad: Saima Saleem, Pakistani diplomat serving as the counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations, became the first blind civil servant to address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

This was the first time she spoke during the summit reading Braille. Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Munir Akram, congratulated Saleem “for successfully putting forward Pakistan’s position.”

The woman diplomat gained special appreciation for her powerful speech from the government leaders and common people. “Not only I but the nation is very proud of her,” said Pakistan’s President Dr. Arif Alvi. This is the Pakistan that we want where people with talent rise, a land of equal opportunities and compassion.”

“Saima is visually impaired but the way she spoke seems her heart can see everything, you have made us proud,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in a tweet.

Saima Saleem, 37, describes herself as the “first blind civil servant of Pakistan and a diplomat with insight, not sight.” She fought for her right to become the first visually impaired person to serve overseas in Pakistan Foreign Service. At every step of the way from CSS examinations to serving as foreign service officer, she refused to be held back by obstacles, and broke all invisible barriers to carve her own path and joined the foreign service in 2008.

She went to the Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service, in Washington DC on a Fulbright scholarship. She also has a master’s degree in English literature from the Kinnaird College For Women University, and an international humanitarian law degree from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Her brother, Yousuf Saleem, is Pakistan’s first visually impaired judge.