“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

How can you feel connected to someone you’ve never met?

A portrait hangs in my grandfather’s house in Karachi, Pakistan. It is of a woman, not conventionally beautiful. Her nose is too broad and her lips too thick, her hair unfashionably pulled back in a bun. But there is something about her gaze, steely and calm, and always in control. It is of my paternal grandmother, who died a few months before I was born.

Although I never had the chance to meet her, family members say we are remarkably similar, in looks as well as in personality. Although she lacked much formal schooling, she read voraciously on a variety of topics. Even more unusually, she was a force to be reckoned with, a woman who wore the pants in the house in an era in which most females were taught to be submissive and yielding.

Although I have received opportunities that my grandmother never did, such as the right to a quality education regardless of my gender, I see in myself the same pioneering spirit that she possessed in abundance.

Pakistan is a seeming paradox of a country – it has had a powerful female head of state, yet was recently also declared one of the world’s most dangerous countries for women.

I have my paradoxes, too.

I want to use my education and the drive I have inherited from my grandmother to simultaneously make it a better place for women and to correct the world’s misconceptions about my country.

— Maliha Khan