Dr. Aamir Jamal, PhD’13

Dr. Aamir Jamal, PhD’13

Arch Award Recipient - International Career Achievement Award

Acknowledges those whose international career accomplishments have brought distinction to themselves, their alma mater and their communities. 

Never believe that the work of one individual cannot possibly change the world. Although the Taliban has recently stalled Dr. Aamir Jamal’s work with women and girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the UCalgary associate professor’s impact continues to ripple across these war-torn countries, as well as others in South Asia. Venerated in international circles for his advocacy work in advancing gender justice and human rights, Jamal’s, PhD’13, research in Canada focuses primarily on three areas: a) engaging men in gender justice, b) effectiveness of international NGOs in the development sector, and c) Canadian Muslim youth identity construction in the context of global conflicts. One of Jamal’s most enduring influences, one that has shaped his work and world view, remains his mother. “She was the first educated woman in the family and in the community who then went on to teach girls in northwest Pakistan for 25 years,” he says. “Through her, I learned and witnessed the power of knowledge gained by women and the power and dignity of men when they stand for gender justice and the education of their daughters.”

What has been your biggest career thrill? When I learned to make a super banana-split sundae during my first job as an ice-cream scooper in New York City.  

What is your idea of perfect happiness? I don’t believe in perfect happiness — I am on a journey for contentment and inner peace, and I always find it by serving others. 

What is your greatest fear? Fear itself. 

Who are your favourite writers? I enjoy reading Ashfaq Ahmad, who was an amazing indigenous Pakistani storyteller and playwright in Urdu language. His deep spiritual insights and community wisdom have always inspired me. Paulo Freire is another writer whose work has had a significant impact on my research journey. 

Who are your heroes in real life? Those resilient girls in northwest Pakistan who, in an environment of continued wars and cycles of oppression, have somehow kept their dreams alive as they continue to struggle for gender justice and access to schooling. And those few courageous men I met in every village who reject existing gender norms and oppression against women and stand firm with their daughters — supporting their education. I often meet my heroes in the field. 

What is your greatest regret? No regrets – but I often reflect on my mistakes and try to learn from those experiences. 

What is your greatest extravagance? Overpriced caramel lattes in a cozy, peaceful cafe. 

Where would you most like to live? In a small village, close to the river, where people live as "one beautiful community.” 

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Righteousness. 

On what occasion do you lie? When a lie can bring peace and a smile between two good friends. 

What is the quality you most like in a person? Integrity. 

What or who is the greatest love of your life? My mom and my dad. 

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Kindness. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement? A little contribution in transforming lives for the better . . . serving those who are weak among us.  

Which talent would you most like to have? Poetry. 

What is your most treasured possession? Beautiful memories with my lovely friends/social activists in Pakistan when we were together in various social movements and humanitarian initiatives. Whenever I’m feeling down, I find a quiet corner in the house, start thinking about those memories, and it brings a smile to my face.  

Dr. Jamal

Dr. Aamir Jamal with a group of students

“I want to dedicate this prestigious award to my mother, my family and to every shoulder I’ve had in this journey, and to all resilient and courageous women and men who stand for social justice and human rights across the globe. I would like to thank my wife, Uzma, [and] my children, Omer, Danyal and Hanya, for their love and continued support in this journey.” 

— Dr. Aamir Jamal, PhD’13

These visionary alumni are changing the world with vision and purpose. Meet the 2022 Arch Award recipients.