Golden girl: UAE expat is UN’s first Pakistani Girl Up teen adviser

Lamya Butt at the Dubai Scholars Model United Nations in February 2020 - (AN Photo courtesy Lamya Butt)
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Updated 13 July 2021

Golden girl: UAE expat is UN’s first Pakistani Girl Up teen adviser

  • Lamya Butt is first Girl Up regional leader from MENA region, responsible for growth of more than 70 clubs in over 17 countries 
  • Girl Up is a UN Foundation initiative to give girls in developing countries equal access to education, health, economic opportunities

DUBAI: When lockdowns were imposed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last year after the outbreak of the coronavirus, Pakistani expat Lamya Butt came across a newspaper article on domestic violence that would change the course of her life in the next few months.

The 17-year-old resident of Dubai, whose family hails from the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, said she was upset by the article but also resolved to work toward creating a violence-free world for women and girls.




Lamya Butt, the UN's first Pakistani Girl Up teen advisor from the UAE, is seen with her family in Dubai in December 2020. (AN Photo courtesy Lamya Butt)

For a teenager, however, the possibilities to push for change seemed “limited,” Butt told Arab News in an interview on Monday.

But then she came across Girl Up, an initiative launched by the United Nations Foundation in 2010 to give adolescent girls in developing countries an equal chance at education, health, social and economic opportunities as well as a life free from violence. There could not have been a more tailor-made project for Butt to pursue her passions, she said.

At the end of 2020, Butt applied for Girl Up’s teen advisers’ program, and in May this year became one of 25 girls selected from 500 applicants around the world, with the Teen Advisory Board writing to inform her: “You have truly impressed us with your deep passion for change, leadership experience, and skill sets.”

“This was a huge moment for my family because they had seen me toil to achieve this goal and since I am the first Teen Adviser from the UAE, the happiness doubled,” Butt said. “For me, it meant empowerment.”

Today, Butt is Girl Up’s first teen adviser from the UAE and the first Pakistani to be appointed to the role. She is also the first regional leader from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, responsible for the growth and development of more than 70 clubs in over 17 countries. She is also helping to plan and execute the upcoming Girl Up Summit’s World Tour for MENA. 

“Our focus will be on breaking the gender stereotypes in the region,” Butt said.

On Sunday, she organized a conference on MENA leadership whose attendees included WWE Wrestler Natalya Neidhart, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Maya Ghazal, Emirati STEM genius Alia Al Mansoori, and the first Emirati Aeronautical Engineer, Dr. Suaad Al Shamsi.

The event was held ahead of Girl Up’s two-day virtual Global Leadership Summit that begins on Wednesday.

Panelists at the event include Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, UN deputy secretary general Amina J. Mohammed, Forbes 30 Under 30 in Science, and TIME’s “Top Young Innovator” Gitanjali Rao, actor, filmmaker and author Justin Baldoni and WWE superstar Sonya Deville.




A screenshot of the MENA Girl Up Summit which Pakistan expat Lamya Butt organized on July 11, 2021. (AN Photo courtesy Lamya Butt)

Thus far, Girl Up’s leadership development programs have impacted 85,500 girls in nearly 125 countries and all 50 US states.

With an acceptance rate of just five percent, Girl Up’s Teen Adviser initiative is its most competitive program. Collectively, Girl Up Teen Advisers have raised more than $500,000, completed more than 7,000 hours of community service, hosted hundreds of events in their communities around the world and performed thousands of advocacy actions at the local, national, and global levels.

Speaking about her journey with Girl Up, Butt said she was helped by a friend in India “who guided me and, initially, I pitched the idea of setting up a Girl Up club in my school, Dubai Scholars, which was well received.”

Butt has also been involved since May 2021 with UN Women Pakistan and the government of Pakistan, giving policy recommendations to the Ministry of Planning Commission on protecting the rights of minorities and women in general by increasing education and vocational opportunities.

This is how Girl Up executive director Melissa Kilby described Butt’s journey: 

“As part of her application, Lamya shared how her Pakistani heritage motivated her to create Resilient Together, an initiative to advocate for education equity in low-income communities. We value her commitment to social justice, and her storytelling skills as the host of her own podcast that highlights diverse communities in the UAE. Lamya will bring her unique perspective and experiences to a diverse global Teen Advisory Board and to all of Girl Up. Alongside others in this cohort, she will be a role model and also be able to learn from her peers as she refines her voice and platform, inspiring and supporting girls around the world.” 

Butt said the selection process for Girl Up was very lengthy and rigorous and she was required to write essays and make videos explaining why she was fit for the role of a teen adviser. 

In her essay, Butt said, she spoke about how, as a Pakistani, she had found her “own voice” living in the UAE. 

“Growing up in the UAE and seeing the leadership of this country has always inspired me to spread my wings … I never felt like my capabilities were limited because I was a girl,” she said. “I am blessed to live in a country where women are given the opportunities to lead by example and where I am considered no less than a man. I know that in the UAE, my hard work and commitment will take me far, doesn’t matter what gender I am.”


Pakistan’s religion ministry holds annual conference with focus on ‘promotion of unity’

Updated 17 sec ago

Pakistan’s religion ministry holds annual conference with focus on ‘promotion of unity’

  • Conference is part of celebrations for Mawlid Al-Nabi, the birth day of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
  • The conference has been held annually by Ministry of Religious Affairs since 1976

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s 46th National Rehmatul Lil Aalameen Conference kicked off in the federal capital today, Monday, as part of celebrations for the upcoming Mawlid Al-Nabi, the birth day of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Rabi Al-Awwal is the third month in the Islamic calendar. The month holds special significance for Muslims around the world as they observe the 12th of the month as Mawlid Al-Nabi, the birth day of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Last week, Prime Minister urged the nation to celebrate next week’s birth anniversary in an “unprecedented manner” this year.
“The two-day conference titled ‘Role of Masjid, Madaris, Khanqas and Imambargahs for the promotion of unity and harmony in the light of teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),’ would conclude on Tuesday,” state-run APP news agency said on Monday. “National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser would be the chief guest on the inaugural day of the conference.”
The second day, Tuesday, would have sessions presided over by President Dr Arif Alvi and PM Khan.
The conference has been held as the annual event of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony since 1976.
“The conference aimed at highlighting the soft image of Islam would disseminate the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) and also encourage the [Muslim] authors by giving them awards on outstanding books and research papers written on the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” APP said.
“People from all walks of life, including Parliamentarians, ambassadors, Ulema, scholars, students of religious seminaries, universities, deans of universities and representatives of chambers of commerce and industry will attend the moot.”


IMF, Pakistan resume talks today for release of $1 billion loan tranche

Updated 11 min 13 sec ago

IMF, Pakistan resume talks today for release of $1 billion loan tranche

  • Finance ministry says negotiations ‘moving forward positively’
  • Denies media reports that talks had concluded last week in ‘failure’

ISLAMABAD: Talks between Pakistani officials and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are “moving forward positively” and will form the basis for the completion of the 6th review of a $6 billion loan program, the Pakistan ministry of finance has said, adding that talks would resume today, Monday.
In 2019, Pakistan reached an accord with the International Monetary Fund for a three-year, $6 billion bailout package aimed at shoring up fragile public finances and strengthening a slowing economy. Pakistani and IMF officials are currently engaged in a fresh round of talks for the release of a $1 billion tranche of the loan.
Five reviews of the program had been completed by March. The sixth is pending since June this year, which, if completed, will enable Pakistan to receive around $1 billion from the fund.
“Fund and Pakistani authorities will resume the talks on Monday [October 18, 2021] from where they were left on Friday,” Muzzamil Aslam, spokesperson for the finance ministry, said in a statement on Sunday. “There is no truth in the news of talks’ failure.”
Negotiations between Pakistan and the IMF are being led by secretary finance division, Yusuf Khan, in Washington, and are “moving forward positively,” the statement said: “No timeframe was set at any stage for conclusion of the talks. The negotiations with the IMF will continue till the successful conclusion.”

Pakistan's Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin (L) arrives in New York ahead of meeting with IMF on October 16, 2021. (Ministry of Finance)

The clarifications from the finance ministry came after local media reported that talks between the fund and Pakistan had concluded on Friday and failed.
Experts said talks may have stalled due to the government’s resistance to the IMF’s demand to increase energy prices even further. A hike of Rs 1.39 per unit was announced last week.
Pakistani Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin has been a staunch opponent of power tariff hikes and personal taxes but has showed some flexibility in recent weeks.
“The other stumbling block is the IMF’s insistence to increase the revenue generation target close to Rs 500 billion in addition to the revenue collection target of Rs 5.8 trillion,” Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, joint executive director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), told Arab News. “This would not be an easy decision to take by the political government under current circumstances.”


Pakistan records lowest daily coronavirus infections since June 

Updated 37 min 1 sec ago

Pakistan records lowest daily coronavirus infections since June 

  • Pakistan has administered total of 93,551,193 doses of COVID vaccines so far
  • That’s enough to have vaccinated about 21.6 percent of the country’s population

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reported 663 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, the lowest number of COVID-19 cases recorded in a single day since June, health ministry data showed on Monday.
The South Asian country has reported 1,265,047 infections and 28,280 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began. The government has administered a total of at least 93,551,193 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs two doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 21.6 percent of the country’s population.
Official data shows 1,913 patient are admitted in critical care across the country.


On Sunday, Pakistan’s pandemic response body rejected as ‘fake’ a video on social media showing children were reacting adversely to vaccines.

In the last week of September, Pakistan announced it would begin to vaccinate children aged 12 or above.


Father suspected of killing two daughters, four grandchildren in Pakistan marriage feud

Updated 18 October 2021

Father suspected of killing two daughters, four grandchildren in Pakistan marriage feud

  • Manzoor Hussain hunted by police after allegedly setting fire to home of sisters Fauzia Bibi and Khurshid Mai in Muzaffargargh district
  • Bibi married Mehboob Ahmad against her father's will in a so-called love marriage, Mai's husband also died in blaze

LAHORE: A father in Pakistan is suspected of killing his two daughters and their four children by setting their house ablaze because one of the women married against his wishes, police said.
Manzoor Hussain is being hunted by police after allegedly setting fire to the home that sisters Fauzia Bibi and Khurshid Mai shared in a village in the Muzaffargargh district of central Pakistan, police official Abdul Majeed told Reuters by phone.
Mai’s husband also died in the blaze, Majeed said.
Bibi had married Mehboob Ahmad about 18 months ago against her father’s will in a so-called love marriage, according to the official, as opposed to an arranged marriage.
“The incident is outcome of the rivalry between the two families over the love marriage,” Majeed said.
Hussain, the father being searched for, lives in a nearby village, he added.
Bibi’s husband Ahmad told police he was not at home at the time of the fire and had found the house ablaze when he returned from work early in the morning, according to his statement to officers, which was seen by Reuters.
Ahmad said his four-month-old son had died, along with Mai’s three children aged two, six and 13.
Hundreds of women in Pakistan are killed by relatives every year for marrying without consent, or against their family’s wishes, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.


Pakistan fails to strike agreement with IMF for release of $1 billion loan tranche

Updated 17 October 2021

Pakistan fails to strike agreement with IMF for release of $1 billion loan tranche

  • Pakistan reached an accord with IMF for three-year, $6 billion bailout package in 2019
  • Pakistani and IMF officials are currently engaged in fresh around of staff-level talks in Washington

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan have failed to strike a staff-level agreement under a $6 billion Extended Fund Facility, or bailout package, Pakistani media reported on Sunday. 
In 2019, Pakistan reached an accord with the International Monetary Fund for a three-year, $6 billion bailout package aimed at shoring up fragile public finances and strengthening a slowing economy.
Pakistani and IMF officials are currently engaged in a fresh round of talks from October 4 to 15 for the release of a $1 billion tranche of the loan.
“The talks failed despite Pakistan having implemented a prior condition of increasing electricity and petroleum products prices,” the Express Tribune newspaper reported. “However, both sides have shown resolve to remain engaged.”
“The IMF team remains engaged with our Pakistani counterparts on moving forward our work agenda and we are looking forward to our continued discussions with the Pakistani authorities on the set of policies and reforms that could form the basis for the completion of the 6th review under the EFF,” Teresa Dabán Sanchez, the outgoing resident representative of the IMF, told The Express Tribune.
This is the second time Pakistan and the IMF could not find “basis for the completion of the 6th review.,” The first attempt was made in June.