Dr Fatima Shah, who rendered many services for the handicapped in spite of her being blind, was born in 1914 in Bhera. Her father, the late Professor Abdul Majeed Kureshi, was the former chairman of the Mathematics department of Aligarh University. She received a gold medal in the High School examination from Aligarh University. She joined Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi and received the MacDonald scholarship of merit.
Dr Shah, who was one of the founding members of the All Pakistan Women’s Association, received an MBE (member of the British Empire) for her social services on the occasion of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
She also founded the Pakistan Association of the Blind in 1960 which developed into a national self-help movement. She remained its president for 25 years, retiring in 1984.
The late Begum Raana Liaquat sent Dr Shah to the United States to take a course. There, Dr Shah found herself becoming active and became one of the founding members of the International Federation of the Blind, a world self-help movement established in New York, and held many offices including that of the president.
Upon her return, Dr Shah forced the government to remove the health clause because of which perfectly healthy, intelligent and qualified people were being deprived of jobs. She also got the government to introduce Braille. She also convinced the government to allow a 50 per cent concession on both domestic and international routes on PIA for all blind persons.
Dr Shah organized the Disabled People’s Federation of Pakistan to serve as a national affiliate to the Disabled Peoples’ International of which she was a world council member. She played a significant role in the establishment of a global body called the World Blind Union and also became a member of the Federal Council National Parliament.
Among the various awards bestowed upon her was the Takeo Iwahashi Award at Gothenburg, Sweden, which she received for her outstanding national services in the field of organization of self-help movements of blind people and their progress and development. The government of Pakistan also conferred upon her a Tamgha-i-Imtiaz. Dr Shah wrote a book, titled Disability, self-help and social change, which was sent to all the libraries of the world.