Pakistani women bust stereotypes - with business

May 5th, 2011 - 12:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, May 5 (IANS) Silently suffering behind a burqa, reduced to an inferior gender in a conservative society and confined to an anonymous existence….women from Pakistan are breaking many such stereotypes and, at a trade show in

India, a clutch of them showed how.

“I started my textile business many years back in Multan. Initially, it was only aimed to provide employment to poor people of our locality, but gradually it became a full-time profession for me,” Naseem Akhtar, owner of Naseem Akhtar
Enterprises, told IANS.

“Today we have provided jobs to scores of people and our unique Multani designs and embroidery are made by hand by my
workers. We are into both manufacturing and exporting fashion products. I have participated in trade shows in different
parts of India and also in the US, Canada and Dubai,” said Akhtar, who is in her early 60s.

She was here for the ‘Made in Pakistan’ trade show.

“We have an association called ‘South Punjab Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry’ in Multan. We want more women to
come forward and this chamber is imparting all help and guidance to those women who want to set up their own
businesses,” Akhtar said.

Shazia Fahed, owner of the Lahore-based Meer Designer, told IANS: “This is my fifth business trip to Chandigarh and every time, the response is overwhelming. Keeping the business part aside, it is really good to interact with Indians. We are quite similar in most aspects.”

“Being a woman was no hurdle to start my own business in Pakistan. I have been running my own manufacturing unit in
Lahore for the last eight years and I have also attended trade shows in Delhi, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jaipur. I have
ladies’ suits ranging from Rs.4,000 to Rs.7,000,” said Fahed, in her early 30s.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) organised the trade show from April 29 to May 3. Around 160 Pakistani
traders, including over 60 women, had come here to participate.

In fact, many were seen conducting business wearing burqas.

Mehwish, 21, managing a ‘kajal’ eyeliner stall, was one of them.

“Besides this, I am also running my own gym in Karachi. Since childhood, I have wanted to become an entrepreneur and I
have realized my dream. I had no problem in pursuing it. I have come to India many times for business and in the coming
days, I will also go to China to participate in another trade show,” Mehwish told IANS.

“Wearing a burqa is no problem as we also have to keep our traditions and values intact,” she said.

‘Made in Pakistan’ saw a fantastic response, with over 1,000 people visiting it every day.

Islamabad-based Shenaz Perween, 50, said: “I am into the women’s garments business for quite a long time. My products
range from Rs.1,100 to Rs.8,000. There are no inhibitions among women in Pakistan and they are raring to go; they just
need the right platform and opportunity.

“It feels really good when we rub shoulders with male counterparts in the field of business.”

The spirit and enterprise of these women also left their Indian counterparts impressed.

“Earlier, I thought women in Pakistan only wore burqas and stayed at home. Seeing all these confident women here is
such a welcome sight,” said Pushpa Sharma, a homemaker.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in)

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