REHANA TANWIR (1933-2019) (NC 1956-60)
Exceptionally bright right from the beginning and ahead of her times, she was determined to break new grounds. She stood first in BA Examination and was awarded a Gold Medal in MA (Economics) by Peshawar University – having the distinction of obtaining the highest marks ever.
In 1955, she passed the examination for the Civil Services of Pakistan, achieving the distinction of being the only woman selected on merit that year. To find her calling, she resigned from the prestigious Civil Service in 1956 and went up to Newnham College (1956-60) on a merit scholarship to read (Tripos) and research in to economics (M.Sc.).
In 1961, she joined the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)/World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations at Rome, Italy. She led numerous U.N. missions to various countries around the globe meeting world leaders. She soon gained the reputation of being a determined, confident, affectionate and cultured lady whose stature and celebrity grew. She was dubbed by her colleagues in the FAO/WFP as a ‘Pathfinder’ for women. She returned to Cambridge as a Fellow of Newnham College in 1994.
Ms Rehana Tanwir was well travelled and was fluent in many languages. She was a prolific writer with special interest in philosophy, psychology, religion, literature and foreign languages. She was an extremely compassionate and generous philanthropist. She enjoyed visiting museums and was fond of performing arts (music and theatre). She lived and enjoyed her life to the full and famously quipped : ‘I don’t have any demand on life except life itself’.
Ms Rehana Tanwir was a tremendous source of love and inspiration to her siblings, nieces, nephews and countless others whose lives she touched.
May her soul rest in peace.
By : Amina Ajaz (Niece).
Ms. Rehana Tanwir (1933-2019)
Exceptionally bright right from the beginning and ahead of her times, Ms Rehana Tanwir was determined to break new grounds. She not only stood first in BA Examination, Peshawar University in 1952 but was also awarded a Gold Medal in MA (Economics) by Peshawar University in 1954 – having the distinction of obtaining the highest marks ever.
She was the Chairperson of the Debating Society at St. Xavier’s University College, Peshawar, and used to review regularly on the Radio Pakistan both the economic conditions in Pakistan and the newly published books on economics and literature. She also used to participate in panel discussions on BBC radio channels. She was the captain of the hockey team during her college days.
In 1955, she passed the competitive examination for the Civil Services of Pakistan (which then also included the present Bangladesh) having the distinction of being in the top five positions and was the only woman selected on merit that year. To find her calling, she resigned from the prestigious Civil Service in 1956 and went up to Newnham College, University of Cambridge, England (1956-1960) to read (Tripos) and carry out research in to Economics (M.Sc.). This was at a time when only a few from the less developed countries were admitted to Cambridge University and that too mostly men. Subsequently, she did a Diploma in Comprehensive Planning at the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Holland.
In 1961, she joined the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)/World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations at Rome, Italy. She led numerous U.N. missions to various countries around the globe (including the very impoverished and war-ridden countries where others were afraid to lead), meeting world leaders. She soon gained the reputation of being a determined, confident, affectionate and cultured lady whose stature and celebrity grew. She was dubbed by her colleagues in the FAO/WFP, as a ‘Pathfinder’ for women.
She took an early retirement from FAO/WFP in 1993 to pursue her other interests in life and returned to Cambridge in 1994 as a Bye-Fellow of Newnham college and as an Official Visitor in the Faculty of Economics & Politics, University of Cambridge.
She was proficient in many languages including French, Spanish, Italian, English, Urdu, Pashto, Arabic and Persian. Towards the end of her life she had started to learn Chinese and was working on a couple of books.
She was a prolific reader with special interest in Economics, Philosophy, Religion, Psychology, foreign languages and English, French, Italian, Spanish & Urdu literature. Her personal library contained hundreds of books. A few hundred of these on Economics alone were donated posthumously to the Economics department, Peshawar university. She used to write her personal experiences and thoughts on various subjects, both in English and Urdu; and wrote English poetry e.g. see her poem titled ‘My Way’ attached below.
She enjoyed visiting museums and was fond of performing arts specially classical music and theatre. She lived and enjoyed her life to the full and famously quipped : “I don’t have any demand on life except life itself”.
She was always full of compassion and was a very generous philanthropist who helped the needy and made donations to the educational and humanitarian institutions – sometimes anonymously.
Ms Tanwir, being the oldest of her seven siblings, was a source of tremendous inspiration and support for them, her nephews and nieces, and countless others whose lives she touched.
Ms Tanwir divided her later years of retirement alternately between New York City (USA) and Peshawar (Pakistan), before settling down in Peshawar after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/dementia.
Her life’s odyssey exemplifies for women how to live their lives to the full, meet challenges undeterred, follow the path to success and attain self-fulfilment.
Through the posthumously established ‘Rehana Tanwir Scholarship’, her legacy lives on by continuing to help other compassionate women wishing to transform their lives (and those of others) by coming up to Newnham College, Cambridge.
By : Arif Ajaz Ph.D.(Cantab) Brother.
‘MY WAY’ by Rehana Tanwir
My way was always different,
My way was tortuous,
My way was of unexpected turnings,
My way was not of the others,
My way was always uncharted,
I was at the end of my career called a Pathfinder.
I just went my way,
My way was always the confident way.
I followed my way always ready for the unknown,
In fact seeking the unknown,
Always avoiding the known ways because one knew where they led,
Always took a road nobody had taken before,
It was the way of the leader,
Others just followed.
My turnings were based on curiosity- where would this road lead to,
What will I see on this road.
My way was the search of new experiences.
Avoid repeating the known,
Avoid getting blaze,
Material reward had nothing to do with my choices,
Decisions based on impulses,
Always willing to take up a challenge,
Never the easy choice,
Willing to try the new,
Find out the unknown.