Profile: Sisters Qaisar Jahaan & Umme Haanee

Top: Umme Haanee with host Farook Khan
Bottom: Qaisar Jahaan

Women around the world are assuming leadership roles to such an extent that, by 2025, most parliaments, including South Africa’s would go through a dramatic change.

This is the view of Chatsworth Sulaiman sisters, Qaisar Jahaan and Umme Haanee – both of whom have embarked in careers which were previously perceived not to be for Muslim women.

Speaking to Farook Khan on Radio Al-Ansaar’s Friday night talk show, 90 Minutes, they said that, like so many young women their age, they opted to pursue tertiary education which would enable them to push back the barriers, to be an inspiration to the younger set and send a message: “This is not only a man’s world.”

Qaisar is a Clinical technologist who chose to specialize in cardiology and has worked relentlessly for four years to equip her to walk into any intensive care unit in the country and deal with life and death situations on an almost daily basis.

Umme Haanee is a budding television camera-woman who has her sights set on working for Al Jazeera, in her ambition to widen the horizon for all people, regardless of wher they are in the world. She caused a sensation in family circles when she announced that, after matric, it was her ambition to break into the highly competitive, but amazingly creative, world of movies, television and the mass media. Lean built and petite, Umme Haanee would stand dwarfed in front of cameras and cranes, which would be part of her future.

Undaunted, the sisters stepped out of the sheltered lifestyles created by their parents, Swaleh and Sajeeda, and made their way to the Durban University of Technology in 2014. “Nothing could have prepared us for our respective journeys into the real world. The workload and the demand to acquire and develop specialist skills followed in the quick succession of a series of examinations. Our studies out-stripped time in each day and we found that, despite a full schedule, we took home even more work, almost daily,” said Qaisar Jahaan.

For Umme Haanee, the introduction to cutting edge journalism seemed exciting, until she had to master the latest technologies she had to use to write and video tape, and acquire the technical expertise to make sure that the tens of thousands of Rands worth of equipment she was using was in working order.

“It called for profound concentration. On the one hand, I had to acquire interview skills and follow this up with writing it in journalese. Then I had to take to the camera and capture my message on tape. It was stunning, to say the least,” she said.

But for Qaisar Jahaan, it got tough when she had to take to the Nkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Cato Manor.

“This is where the real-life experiences came to me and I had to cope with them. Here were real people who were really ill. I was being trained to help them regain their physical health. But it turned out to be more – I realized that there was a greater effort needed and here, my faith, being a Muslim, had to be summoned countless times a day in seeking relief for a patient,” she said.

The sisters recalled that at one time, young women went to university to become teachers, lawyers and accountants, with some, who were lucky, getting into Medical School. But with the competition for jobs so strong, especially in a male-dominated society, it called for a person to be so good in their chosen profession that they to beat tough competition to get and maintain work.

For Qaisar Jahaan, her job, though highly intense, has made her a people’s person. “I have learnt so much more about human beings, the different cultures and our diversity. We reach out to each other in all circumstances, including life and death situations.”

Umme Haanee has realized that she wants to make documentaries for television. “I believe that I need to deliver messages through the stories I tell to the world. Messages to remove the restrictions which prevent us from getting to know and understand our world. There are many untold mysteries that need to be uncovered.”

Both sisters say that, for some reason, the present day young woman is serious about the future. Young men may be concerned too, but not at the level and in numbers compared to those women who are keen to play a major role in public office, especially on the African continent.

The sisters are determined to make a positive contribution to the community, guided by their grandparents – maternal and paternal – from whom they receive guidance, leadership and love. They credit their parents for making sacrifices and having confidence in them to realize their respective dreams, no matter how far out of reach they once seemed.

Farook Khan – 90 Minutes –

Radio Al-Ansaar, 29th June 2018


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