Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy was born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1978 to Saba Obaid and Sheikh Obaid. She completed her A Levels from Karachi Grammar School and became the first woman from her family to go abroad for studies when she left for the United States from where she completed her Bachelors of Arts in Economics and Government. She then completed her two Master degrees from Stanford University in Communication and International Policy Studies.
Her Documentary career in filmmaking began when she examined the plight of Afghani refugee children in Pakistan for one of her articles. Their situation was so dire, and their stories so compelling, that Sharmeen decided to return to Pakistan and create a film about them. She petitioned Smith College and New York Times Television production division for the grants that would allow her to accomplish her goals. Intrigued by her story, both organizations gave her the funds as well as production equipment and training.
Known for documentaries dealing with life in the Muslim world, Obaid became the first non-American to win the Livingston Award. Her films have aired on such networks as Channel 4, CNN, PBS, and Al-Jazeera. Obaid began her career with New York Times Television in 2002 where she produced Terror's Children, a film about Afghan refugee children, which won her the Overseas Press Club Award, the American Women and Radio and Television Award, and the South Asian Journalist Association Award. Since then, she has produced and reported on more than twelve films around the world. Obaid produced and reported on four multi-award winning documentary films for New York Times Television. In 2003, Reinventing the Taliban was awarded the Special Jury Award at the BANFF TV festival in Canada, the CINE Golden Eagle Award, the American Women in Radio and Television award, and the Livingston Award. In 2005, her film Women of the Holy Kingdom, which provided an inside look at the women's movement in Saudi Arabia, won the South Asian Journalist Association Award.
In 2005, Obaid began working with Channel 4 in the United Kingdom reporting on four films for their Unreported World series. Pakistan's Double Game looked at sectarian violence in Pakistan, City of Guilt explored the Catholic Church's pro-life movement in the Philippines, The New Apartheid looked into growing xenophobia in South Africa, and Birth of a Nation delved into the politics of East Timor. In 2007, Obaid was named "journalist of the year" by the One World Media awards for her work in the series. In 2007, Obaid travelled to Afghanistan and reported for Channel 4 and CNN. Her film, Afghanistan Unveiled/Lifting the Veil, focuses on stalled reconstruction and the repression of women in the country. In 2010, she won an emmy award for her documentary, Pakistan: Children of the Taliban, which explores Taliban recruitment strategies, their effect on the youth and their methods to radicalize the country’s young and often dejected populace. Children of the Taliban premiered FiLums (2011) - the largest film festival in Pakistan held annually at the University of Management Sciences.
On 23 March 2012, Pakistan's president conferred the highest civilian award, the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, on Obaid-Chinoy for bringing honor to Pakistan as a filmmaker and in the same year she won the academy award for Best Documentary by 'Saving Face' which made her the first Pakistani to win an Academy Award.
She then again won an Academy award for her documentary 'A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness' on 29th February 2016 and became the first Pakistani to win two Academy awards.