The Superstar With a Golden Heart In conversation with DURDANA ANSARI OBE

With Her Majesty The Queen awarding Order of the British Empire (OBE) for educating British Muslim Women in 2012

When the world seems to be completely engulfed with sheer negative stories that depict a raging war against humanity, how do you not celebrate a role model who shines with the notion that great people are still around us- who can and are bringing immense joy to this nation, holding us high as we beam with pride through their remarkable achievements?

This week, we are presenting one such personality who is a living example that great things are destined for you, when you set your mind and soul into attaining them.

In conversation with The Sealord RN, Admiral Sir Antony David Radakin, KCB, ADC

Social Diary is honored to have had the opportunity to speak to Durdana Ansari- OBE, the Iron Lady of Pakistan. She is the first Muslim and British-Pakistani female in the world to have ranked as an Honorary Captain of the British Royal Navy, approved by the Queen herself. She was also awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by the Queen for educating British Muslim Women in 2012 She knows no limits as she continues to create work of substance. Here’s our interview with this undeniably passionate and fierce woman, who says she is nowhere done as she continues to attain excellence, all the while with such a humble persona. Read On:

Speaking at Mirpur University AJK to motivate young female students

SD: We are honored to have you with us today. How does it feel to continuously be bombarded with interviews- must be getting tiring?
Durdana: Not at all. I’m flying on cloud nine as they say. It is a feeling of complete gratefulness to have received such immense love and recognition from everyone. Thanks to everyone for being so lovely with their words and praises.
SD: An entrepreneur, activist, motivational speaker, as well as having a very impressive career in journalism spanning for several decades, how does it feel to be holding onto so many titles. Does it get overwhelming?
Durdana: It was probably that moment when I got that letter which proved to be a major surreal moment for me. I looked at it assuming it to be a routine update from the Royal Navy, but when I saw the stamp by Her Majesty it was really exciting. I looked at my mother and told her “Ami I have been made a Captain”. She looked up and said “But weren’t you a commander already?” And after I explained the whole thing to her, she said to me “Will you still be washing my bathroom?” So this statement in itself depicts the simplicity in my household and I don’t let my title get to me in any way.

SD: How do you try to unwind at home when just aiming to relax?
Durdana: I listen to music, I spend time with my children. I also go on expeditions, I love going on nature walks and travelling. It also pumps me up when I get to meet lovely and inspiring people.
SD: You had made such a strong mark in journalism working for BBC. Your nephew ‘Asim Azhar’ is a musician and sister ‘Gul-e-Rana’ is quite popular in Pakistan’s entertainment industry…how did the Royal Navy come into the picture in this family clan?
Durdana: I was just 16 years old when I got married. I moved to the UK and it was a major change in terms of how we are to behave and carry ourselves. Life itself takes its own course. I have always considered every 10 years of my life as a major turning point. I suddenly find myself in a completely new and different stance. So while I have always dreamt of great things, I would call them my tangible dreams. I strive for things which I know I need to work hard for. It was in BBC I started with an Urdu service. People appreciated my voice. It progressed towards Meridian, Outlook and eventually World Today. So it was my 22 years in BBC where I moved on through various sections where I was noticed by a British Parliamentarian to take on certain charity initiatives. It seemed overwhelming at first but my work with Ethnic Minorities Foundation and the Pearl Education Foundation led to the recruitment of approximately 9,000 students and 700 volunteers. It was in 2012 that I received my OBE from the Queen. This recognition escalated my familiarity and it was how I was able to get representatives from the Royal Navy show interest in working with me.

SD: What exactly is the kind of work you are doing under your title for the Royal Navy?
Durdana: I work as an advisor to RN on recruitment and engagement with Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) where I collaborate with different communities from all walks of life. In this role, I help the Royal Navy to understand the sensitivities and cultural backgrounds of these communities. I aim to aid the Royal Navy in recognizing the potential of the younger generation of BAME members living in the UK. I am also an instructor for the Royal Navy officers.
SD: According to you, how important is it to highlight the need for women to pursue their passions, even if they are falling into an unconventional framework?
Durdana: I would say women need to come out of their comfort zone and push the boundaries to attain greatness that is already embedded within them. Oftentimes they may feel their cultural boundaries and ethical standing may get impacted in the process, but that isn’t the case. The Royal Navy accepts me the way I am. They even took care of my religious beliefs, respecting them and honoring them in my work title. It all comes down to pursuing your passion, respecting your vision and proceeding towards attaining greatness without worrying over what shortcomings you might face along the way. Wherever you go, you are a role model for your society, your culture and your country. Keep that in mind.
SD: Looking into the entirety of work you have done and accolades you have attained, while beautifully raising your 4 children- what is your success equation to managing it all so well?
Durdana: I’ve worked with a system where I have created various boxes of dedication in my mind. One is for my children, one is for my parents, one for my social life, work commitments and so on. I am telling you, once you’ve set your mind to keeping them all synched and balanced, you cannot go wrong. Give clarity to your mind, be on your guards but do so with a very soft heart. It all works out well. I’ve always spoken with a soft tone to my 2 daughters and 2 sons. And I’ve spoken to them on their level to assure their worth and importance. Learn to trust your children and respect them before expecting respect from them. I am highly proud of all my children with what they have been able to attain, but I am also glad how they have done so with a very humble approach. Support your children and their passion and see where they will head and create wonder, not just for themselves but for their country too!
SD: Looking into how you definitely have a celebrity status with your achievements, does that persona also shine across when at home with your children in tow?
Durdana: The recognition is embedded within. You don’t need to let anyone know. My children are well aware of my role as a public figure but it isn’t something I showcase or flaunt across my house. But yes, when my ami scolds me now, I jokingly state how she should not be doing that anymore, now that I am a Captain of the Royal Navy. But it’s all the love of my family, friends, colleagues and the people which just keeps me motivated to continue to strive for great things.
SD: With another feather added into your already well-decorated cap, is it becoming too overwhelming especially being in the public eye to continue making us proud with your amazing endeavors or do you feel like it’s time to take a break?

At the PTV Studios Islamabad-for Omar Khalid Butt Show

First Day in Hon Captain’s uniform, at HMS Nelson, Portsmouth
Durdana: There has never been a window of taking a break in my life. But along with saying that, I also don’t want to rush through life which will make me take a hard stumble. For me my work’s main agenda would always be to become the voice of confidence in those who haven’t realized their potential yet. I have seen my share of ups and downs to reach where I am today. I want everyone out there to remain steadfast on their goals. Show patience and be involved in voluntary work. All of these efforts will yield all the goodness which is destined for you.


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