Zenith Irfan , from Pakistan

Can a 21 year old girl change the perception of a patriarchal society and break the taboo for women to venture out alone?

The Ajala Project presents Zenith Irfan, a Pakistani girl changing the world.

Read the story of Zenith Irfan, a girl who embarked on a solo journey across her home country of Pakistan to honor her father’s dying wish and change patriarchal beliefs and stereotypes of what a girl can or cannot do.

Where the journey of one AJALA’s nomad ends, another AJALA’s nomad journey starts. Moin Khan — who embarked on a solo motorcycle adventure from California ended his journey in Lahore, Pakistan. The same city Zenith Irfan began her journey around Pakistan, her “One Woman Two Wheels” story.

Zenith Irfan a brave 21 year old girl, embarked on a motorbike adventure across the mountains and flatlands of Pakistan. She began her journey in June 2015 from Lahore, taking her seven days to get to Kashmir. Then she did two additional journeys with her brother and friends, one in August 2015 of twenty days reaching the Khungerjab Pass and recently in August 2016 she is on another journey to Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KPK) which will take almost one moth. Zenith was raised in Sharjah, UAE till the age of 12, before she moved back with her family to Pakistan. At the same age while flipping through the family photo album, she became aware of her deceased father’s dream: “he wanted to drive the world across his motorbike”. From that day on, she decided she would live her father’s dream, she was emotionally stimulated, supported and inspired by her mother, to the point that she wanted to make her father’s dream come true, he unfortunately passed away prematurely by age 34.

The first opportunity to give life to her inspiration occurred in 2013, when Zenith’s brother, a strong believer and supporter of Zenith’s cause, bought a small Honda CD-70 and he began to reveal and teach her how to safely ride a motorbike — proof that the support of family helps break limits and the constraints that society sometimes imposes on the human race. Over weeks and months of training Zenith’s riding skills grew better until the time she felt ready to begin her adventure. So on June 2015 she jumped on her motorbike to start her journey across Pakistan. She left home in fear, but the desire to give life to her father’s dream was so strong, the doubts became insignificant as most of her fears too.

“I’m a little worried about traveling as a female biker because I’m living in a society where women riders are marginalized,” said Irfan. She wears a helmet, boots and bulky jacket that give little away of her feminine form. “Most people obviously thought I was male” she added, “and whenever I stopped to ask directions and they realized I was female, they didn’t know what to do, both men or women were shocked to see a girl riding mountains”. The only negative comment she has received since she started on her solo motorcycle adventure around Pakistan was from a man who told her “girls don’t ride motorcycles!

She drove from her native country Lahore (capital of Punjab, the second largest metropolitan area of Pakistan) through the Kashmir belt, and on a different journey she reached Khunjerab Pass (the high mountains pass at the Northernmost part of Pakistan, next to China). These journeys made her the first female Pakistani motorcyclist to ride through the whole of Pakistan. Every kilometer she drove was a moment of awareness and connection with her father and the breathtaking landscape of her country.

“As a young girl not knowing what father’s inspiration is, I was able with this journey to establish a deep connection with my father”

The road trip to the edges of her country took her through the scenic Skardu district in Gilgit-Baltistan, the northernmost territory of Pakistan. “As a Pakistani citizen I never realized how amazing my own country is”. “I never knew a motorcycle, a simple vehicle, could hold so much power” she says “the kind of power that changes how a person views the world, I often come across a quote which says: “four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul, I never knew how true that was until I started riding, it is true to the core”.

Such rare words to hear nowadays, we live in a world where the technology era and the consumerist culture is creating zombie like human prototypes– drugged by the unreal, obsessed by videogames, digital chatting, selfies, with little to no interest in meaningful content about arts, culture, innovation, nature and the beauty that surrounds us. We are losing contact with the reality and falling in the so called progress-regress. It is more and more frequent, walking by the streets, and observing entire generations with the hypnotic gaze on their mobile phone screen, to this it must be added the more or less prolonged exposure in front of the TV feeds them with distorted information from news and reality shows.

Some call it the Broad-Band Generation- people connected all day with a universe of possible worlds trying to adapt themselves to a social system more and more plural and complex. This generation is becoming restless, insecure, uncertain and lost, and that’s why they seek the water as the dry earth of the desert, they look for a compass as the disoriented sailors in the ocean, their first cultural nourishing form is the daily social media diet, which AJALA wants to change providing them a compass to find their route, through a platform that showcases normal people, like Zenith. People doing extraordinary things, real role models that that lead by example.

With her journeys, Irfan became aware that a simple journey through mountains and valleys, far away from the city and its distractions, can heal the soul, establishing a strong connection with the spiritual.

”I felt free’ — “When I was on the road, it was like a coming together of my mind, body and soul,” she says “being out of Pakistan’s congested cities I felt free.”

At the border she was praised for being the first Pakistani motorcyclist the border agent had met, though other riders had previously traveled there.

“With my journeys I not only proved that Pakistani women are capable of brace endeavors, but I also challenged myself as an individual an I hope to inspire people all over the world to visit Pakistan, an amazing place for too long framed in stereotypical narratives aimed to raise prejudices.” — Zenith Irfan.

The Ajala Project recognises daring adventure; for breaking down borders and for demonstrating that it is possible to achieve whatever you set your heart on. She is definitely an AJALA, a girl with the courage of traveling alone on a motorbike across Pakistan, a patriarchal society where women’s rights is almost non-existent. She has inspired young girls and women around the world to push themselves beyond limits that once held them back and believe in the power of their dreams, as that by itself is success.

Zenith Irfan is currently pursuing her BBA at Lahore School of Economics, she has a lot of new exciting ideas in her minds for the future and the AJALA Project would be delighted to empower her and connect her with the right audience. Stay tuned to this space, we will provide the last Zenith’s adventure details upon its completion. Support the movement by sharing.

Written by: Giovanni Morra, Edited by: Bayo Hassan Bello.