Profile: Begum Viqarunnisa Noon Freedom Fighter, Politician, Social Worker

History has always witnessed the pivotal role of women in the struggles of any nation. The active participation of the Muslim women in politics in the subcontinent, dates back to Khilafat Movement. Pakistan’s freedom movement was also accelerated by the strength and perseverance of our trailblazing women. These dynamic women figureheads were certainly successful in making their presence known. It was unprecedented for Muslim women to take part in the political movement for a separate homeland in such a great number. In spite of facing social pressures and hardships, they fought for Pakistan, inspiring other women in supporting their men by keeping abreast with them. Women involved in the freedom movement proved themselves through their efforts and struggles by leading from the forefront. One prominent figure amongst them was Begum Viqarunnisa Noon, wife of a member of Indian Viceroy's cabinet, and later the 7th Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sir Feroze Khan Noon. 
Begum Noon was born in July 1920 in Austria as Victoria Rekha. After marriage, she converted to Islam and was renamed Viqarunnisa, also known as Lady Vicky. Begum Noon was one of the leading women who were part of the struggle that led to the creation of Pakistan. She stepped into the political arena and extended her efforts in creating awareness about freedom amongst the Muslim communities of the Punjab region. Her talent and considerable interest in local politics led her to become a member of the Punjab Provincial Women's Subcommittee. She also brought political consciousness among Muslim women, encouraged groups of female students and fervent women volunteers, to travel to other districts of the province for promoting the cause of the Muslim League. As an upfront motivator of the committee, she managed to organize different election campaigns, protests and rallies. Her strategic efforts of organizing demonstrations during the Civil Disobedience Movement in Punjab against the British-backed Malik Khizar Hayat Tiwana cabinet proved to be substantial and effective. Her tireless endeavors are a proof of her dedication in spreading the word of independence.
Her active involvement continued even after independence. She helped during the refugee crisis by providing humanitarian services to a large number of people coming to their homeland from India. Her contributions did not end here as she passionately served for making her country a progressive state. She resumed her social services by becoming a part of the Red Cross and got involved in local social work particularly in education of girls. 
Her concern for the education of women stimulated the establishment of two schools in both wings of Pakistan — Viqarunnisa College for Women, Rawalpindi, and the Viqarunnisa Noon School, a renowned school for girls in Dhaka. The Dhaka branch was founded in 1952. She was ranked among very few people who were greatly respected in both wings of Pakistan for her selfless social services to the people and remains well acknowledged for her strenous efforts for the education of girls in both the Pakistan and Bangladesh.
It is not known by many, but Gwadar was made a part of Pakistan by the active involvement of Begum Noon. In 1956, despite numerous impediments, she played a vital role for the accession of Gwadar from Oman to Pakistan against Indian designs. She lobbied and vigorously negotiated in London, which resulted in approval of accession from the House of Lords in Pakistan’s favor. In her autobiography, From Memory, she herself narrates the reclamation of Gwadar from the Sultanate of Oman for Rs. 5.5 billion. Gwadar has now become the ‘Golden Hen’ under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework. 
In 1978, former President Zia-ul-Haq appointed her the Federal Minister for Tourism and Culture. She offered her services on that position for a brief period before her retirement. 
After her husband’s death, Begum Viqarunnisa Noon was among the few who worked in earnest as a social activist. According to her, the love and connection with the country made her stay in Pakistan. She continued her work with other lady advocates of the society such as Begum Mahmooda Salim Khan, Attiya Inayatullah and Begum Zari Sarfaraz. She served in different organizations like Pakistan Red Crescent Society, and the National Crafts Council of Pakistan. Lady Noon was also the executive member of the Family Planning Association of Pakistan. She successfully engaged in services for Girls Guides, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and All Pakistan Women Association (APWA).
Begum Noon has set an example for other women with her inspiring personality and diverse abilities. She was honored with the highest civil award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, in October 1959 by the Government of Pakistan for her fidelity and exceptional services to the nation. Following in her footsteps, women of today can work to stretch the boundaries of education and development in the society. 
Her disciplined and organized behavior complemented by her graceful personality made her able to accomplish her goals. She spent the last few years of her life in Islamabad and at her cottage, ‘Al-Feroz’, in the hills near Abbottabad. She found peace there and spent most of her time writing and painting. After fighting a prolonged illness, she passed away on January 16, 2000. She will always be remembered for her devotion and dedication in helping make the country prosperous for the generations to come.
Our country needs leaders like Begum Viqarunnisa Noon, who have worked whole heartedly for the nation’s strength. Her commitment and love for the motherland portrays the level of her patriotism. Women of Pakistan should take inspiration from her exemplary life. It is of paramount significance to make our youth aware of the struggles and hard work of these female political workers from the freedom movement. Our history remains incomplete without acknowledging the contributions and efforts made by our resilient female leaders. Begum Noon was and will be remembered for her dedication and commitment to girls’ education. She will remain an inspiration for Pakistani women and be remembered for her devotion and services to Pakistan. HH

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Remembering Lady Viqar-Un-Nisa Noon

She turned a few heads when she was young
Then married a good man who led a nation
And ere she’s history and her song’s sung
She’ll remain a source of true inspiration
Opening new schools, or the Red Cross
Providing flood relief in far flung corners
Instead of skiing in Semmering or Davos
Or playing host to all kinds of foreigners
Who else could’ve headed a Foreign Mission
Or offered scholarships to those in dire need
Without taking an arm or a leg in commission
To satisfy some insatiable demonic greed
Or lasted as the matriarch of tourism long
Had she no love for our mountains and sea
Knowing the country needed to be strong
Were we to remain independent and free
She turned a few heads when she was young
Then married a good man who led a nation
And ere she’s history and her song’s sung
She’ll remain a source of true inspiration

Courtesy: Vicky Noon Educational Foundation


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