The Pond’s miracle journey continues this week with Naheed Mashooqullah’s Miracle Women. Naheed Mashooqullah,a well-known and honourable architect, is no less of a miracle story herself. Born and educated in Mumbai, India, Naheed established her Design Studio in 1993. Naheed’s design philosophy is rooted in the principals of simplicity; harmony; practicality and functionality. Naheed achievements are not meagre, she has been bestowed with a fellowship from the Pakistan Institute of Interior Design (PIID),as well as the honor of being the first recipient of the Ladies Fund award for Women Entrepreneurs in 2008 and the KCCI award in 2016.
Naheed is a role model for every woman who wants to be the best at what she loves, and that is the kind of women she has selected for her Miracle women of 2016. Recognising women that have risen against the odds, there is a consultant neurosurgeon, an educationist, a corporate head, two bankers, a cosmetologist, a young dynamic CEO of a construction company, an economist, and the owner of one of my favourite eateries in Karachi, Cafe Aylanto.
She is a Consultant Neurosurgeon
She is committed
She is resilient
Aneela Darbar is a neurosurgeon who loves her job, her womanhood and her early morning bicycle rides. This Miracle Woman is currently an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Agha Khan University. She moved back to Karachi from New York three years ago, after receiving her training to be able to spend more time with her family.
“Neurosurgery all over the world is a very male dominated field. It is not only physically tiring but also emotionally taxing. The kind of responsibilities and liabilities of life and death that one has to face doing my work is quite immense,”Aneela explains. Therefore, her job requires not just dedication but a lot of time as well. Aneela believes that as a result of the required time commitment, women who are home-makers cannot go into this field. “When I had chosen to become a neurosurgeon after medical school, I was told immediately that it is impossible to get a neurosurgery slot in USA, that too for a brown woman, in a program with only a hundred slots. I was the only woman amongst a bunch of white males that got selected. Our mornings would start at 5 am but I used make sure to go with my makeup on!” She laughs. Aneela says she had decided from the outset that she is a woman and will not change her outlook to blend in with the rest of the male doctors. Recalling her time of training, she says that she used to stand out when she would enter a room full of doctors as her appearance would shatter the stereotypical image of a neurosurgeon. “Some of them would understand and become comfortable soon while others would keep feeling a woman can never be a good neurosurgeon.” She’s extremely proud of the fact that since she has been at Agha Khan, five more women have been inducted in the neurosurgery program at the university.
It’s difficult for Anila to pick one moment as her Miracle moment. She chooses to define it as her miracle transformation as a person. Her profession has given her a lot of pride but has also shaped her into being more humane and compassionate. She admits that when she started off, she was very arrogant because of her success but her journey helped her realize that life and death is a close line and you can lose someone you love in seconds. “I am a woman after all, I am sensitive, and it affects me,” She says with tears in her eyes.
The strong and the very dedicated Aneela is a firm believer of the fact that every person needs self-love and self-care. Nobody can do that job for you but yourself. She uses various products to keep her skin young and fresh. She is also an athlete and bikes 50 km every day in the morning and a 100 km on Sunday to keep herself fit.
Looking back, she feels that the one thing she would do differently if given the chance would be to pick up her phone more often and connect with friends, call her parents more and ask them how they are. “When you are focused on a goal you have a tunnel vision and forget what is happening in the periphery – family, friends, parents get neglected.” She says with a hint of regret in her smile.
Aneela Darbar is the personification of success and a woman worthy of admiration. When seen beyond her white lab coat, she is a warm, caring woman who is open to learning from her mistakes. It is said that to be successful, the first thing to do is to fall in love with your work. Aneela has done exactly that to be where she is today.
Ayesha Aqeel Dedhi
She is a CEO
She is a concept designer
She is passionate
“Every day is a new learning day in construction,” according to Ayesha. Piling, structuring and the finishing phases, are all fascinating to her. “Construction itself is a difficult field but if you are focused and hardworking then you can achieve everything in life.” Despite having a Masters degree in Marketing, Ayesha joined the construction industry in 2011. As the CEO of Creek Developers, she’s currently working for her father’s dream project. This project, a brainchild of Atkins, includes 13 residential towers and 11 office towers as well as retail outlets.
With mentors like Naheed Mashooqullah and support of both her parents, Ayesha is a visionary. Her first task was to get a construction model made. Since her project was similar to those in Dubai, she began her research to find the perfect model maker from abroad. It was very challenging because she was unable to travel and even her father recommended she should get it done from Karachi. “I absolutely had to get a model maker from abroad. I gathered a few and went to my father again. When I put forward my request he told me he had all his trust in me.” Even the architect for Ayesha’s mall had to be chosen from abroad. “It was a very difficult task because it was a big mall and the realization of my father’s dream was dependant on my capability and decisions. I researched a couple of architects. There was no local architect involved. It was one of my proud moments. Finalising negotiations, making him understand my requirements and achieving the final result.”
Communication was particularly stressful for Ayesha. She relied on skype and even that was an issue due to time differences. When the model was ready, it was shown to her on skype. Getting it shipped to Karachi was another issue since there was a risk of damage. “When the model arrived we got a lot of response from people. The challenge was that we had no electricity for three months at that time and the model was made of wax. The fact that it survived and was such a huge success makes me very happy,” she says with a smile. You have to think tactfully in this field. There is always confusion. “At times, in the construction industry, if you compare an apple to an apple, every vendor gives a different cost for the same quality. You have to be aware of ground realities. There are big projects with a lot of money involved. Cartels get formed frequently.” For Ayesha it was hard to be taken seriously at first, especially when dealing with labour. “Even with some contractors you have to tell them who is the boss.”
How does Ayesha deal with all the stress? Her detox is going to a salon, getting a blow-dry frequently, and indulging in manicures and pedicures. “It’s very important to cleanse your skin with good products,” she says. Other than that Ayesha is very spontaneous. After work she’s often out with her cousins or friends in order to unwind. “I think you need to set your priorities and there is a lot of discipline required. You need to know what priority to give to work and your personal life,” she maintains.
“When I saw my towers standing high and mighty it was a miracle moment for me. I take a lot of pride in the fact that the towers, 24 and 34 floors high, started in my tenure.” Ayesha has put a permanent imprint on the map of Karachi. We hope more women aim for the sky, and rise high, just like Ayesha’s magnificent towers.
Bushra Tayyab Afzal
She is an educationist
She is a humanitarian
She is earnest
Miracle Woman, Bushra Tayyeb Afzal, a Director on the Board of The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is a star in the field of education in Pakistan. On returning to her city after years, she found her true calling and since then, there has been no stopping. When TCF started in 1996, those involved in the project decided to make schools with very strict terms, keeping in mind the wishes and limitations of those who TCF aimed to cater for. “We wanted to make schools where girls and boys studied together with 50% of the students to be females. To achieve that, we decided, firstly, to employ female teachers. We also ensured that the schools were easily accessible on foot,” says Bushra. When Bushra initially started considering becoming a part of TCF, she was reluctant. “I thought this is all games and play, something that regularly happens in Pakistan, but when I visited one of the 5 schools under TCF at that time, it brought tears to my eyes. I saw some of the harsh realities of Pakistan. I had just moved to Karachi from the Middle East after many years and on meeting the principal that day, I realised that it is education which can bring a change in this country, so I opted for this path,” Bushra reminisces.
The first and the most important challenge Bushra and her colleagues at TCF faced was changing the mind-set of the poor families. The parents did not want to send their children to schools; rather they wanted them to work and bring home money. This is of course one of the issues faced by other developing countries as well where education is severely undervalued by people. Parents were especially reluctant to send their girls to school. They would argue that their children would not be able to bring in the benefits of education in terms of a livelihood for at least 11 years. “Although, some of the mothers really wanted their daughters to study for them to secure a better future for themselves, the Madrassas in our targeted areas used to create issues. Therefore, to make them understand the benefits of this long term investment, our principal used to go to their homes personally and convince them.” Changing this thinking was very difficult but Bushra is now proud of the students, especially girls, who ended up joining TCF. “The girls who have done Matriculation under us are very intelligent and convince their parents to allow them to keep studying. The flowers are now blossoming,” says Bushra with a proud smile.
Another major challenge that Bushra highlights is the issue of funding. Since it was a new organization, convincing people to invest in the future of Pakistan was difficult. But since their education was for everyone, not just for a particular religion or sect, it made it easy for a lot of people, Muslims or non-Muslims to donate and support TCF. A lot of friends of the founding directors of the organization contributed generously for the cause of education. “This happened because the trust factor we were able to create is very strong,” Bushra explains. Sometimes, people also refuse but Bushra says she has learnt to knock on their doors again and again. “There is no shame in asking for the betterment of the underprivileged.”
“Although this wasn’t very common in our generation, I am all for working women. The girls are so intelligent, they are risk takers and entrepreneurs. I encourage them completely. When I listen to our girls at TCF, it surprises me – the children studying there do not have a lot of exposure but their aims and ambitions make me very proud. Once I asked one of the girls what she plans to do in life, she told me ‘fashion’. She said she designs clothes and gets her inspiration from the television shows she watches. And on hearing that I told her that she must visit Paris as that is the fashion capital of the world. I met her again after some time and asked her if she has finally decided what she wants to do and she very matter of factly said ‘meinay Paris jana hai!’. The aim is to inspire and encourage our children,” says Bushra.
For Bushra, her Miracle Moment is yet to come but she feels very proud handing over the reins of the organisation to the younger generation, which is the future of Pakistan. When we have people like Bushra, selfless and resolute, who don’t just wish well for the country but take practical steps to make it a better place, there is no reason for us to feel that the future of Pakistan is bleak. As long as the flame of education is burning, we will find a way out of darkness.
She is an HR professional
She is a mother
She is balanced
“It was December of 1996 when I was called by the HR Head of ICI into the very office where I sit in now and I was told they have good and bad news. They said I’m being promoted but I have to relocate to Lahore. I’m a total Karachiite and Lahore was absolutely unknown for me. I was cognizant of the fact that girls who live on their own are looked down upon in our society. But I braved the challenge, lived as a paying guest, found my own space, got my own meals, found my own dhobi, and emerged triumphant from that challenge. It worked out to be great. I built my career, learnt a lot from personal experiences and I would encourage everyone to take on that challenge whenever it comes.”Fathema Zuberi, head of HR at ICI Pakistan Limited, recalls with amusement the hurdles of her younger years. It is evident from her strong, charismatic personality that everything she has endured has polished her like a jewel.
Fathema is a mother to two beautiful girls. Being a working mum does pose a lot of challenges, but compared to challenges faced by other woman in Pakistan, Fathema says her own difficulties seem trivial. “Your kids aren’t well and you leave them at the mercy of a maid to travel for a business meeting. It’s always a challenge but it’s nothing when you look around and so many people have to make bigger sacrifices just to make ends meet.” For Fathema it’s as simple as 3 things; plan what you want to do, prioritize and learn to multitask. She says that once you have learnt the art of how to do several things at one time, everything else is a breeze.
Emotional stability and financial independence are both essential according to Fathema because you never know when life will throw an unexpected curve ball towards you. She talks about how a lot of her friends and family went through difficult stages in life and those who managed to come out of them bravely were the ones who knew how to keep themselves financially and emotionally independent. Fathema herself was brought up in a household where children had the freedom to take their own decisions. “I think whatever I am today is because of my mother. If it was not for the values instilled in me, without the love, encouragement and tolerance I would be nothing.”
Fathema admits that playing several roles in life is not easy. Being a professional, a mother, a wife, a daughter-in-law, and most of all being true to your own self is difficult all at the same time. On occasions when she has struggled with what to do, two concepts have always helped her – knowing her purpose and never being ashamed to ask for help and reach out to people who care for her. Husband, family, mentor, or boss, Fathema doesn’t shy away from reaching out for help.
Fathema believes that women, by nature, are self-sacrificing. However, taking care of yourself is critical. Fathema travels, visits salons, and spends time relaxing with friends and family. It’s her time out. Every time her children turn around and appreciate her and every time they tell her they are proud of her, is a miracle moment. She smiles and says that she considers herself lucky that her miracle moments come very often. It makes all the hard work and challenges worthwhile. And now that she has been selected as a Pond’s Miracle Woman we are sure that her children have yet another reason to feel proud of their mother.
She is a restaurateur
She is a food-lover
She is determined
Humaira is a happily married woman and a mother to a wonderful daughter. Food is her passion and she has managed to turn her passion, her love, into her business. She is running Cafe Aylanto in Karachi for almost 20 years now and travels to Lahore often to manage the second branch of her restaurant there. She, at this point in her life, is having a ball designing menus, developing new recipes and looking after the general experience of her guests. However, even after meeting with a great deal of success and carving out a special name for herself in the restaurant business in Pakistan, she does not shy away from taking on new challenges and seeks to constantly improve herself.
Being in the restaurant business in Pakistan comes with its own challenges. Many amenities which may be taken for granted in the developed world are a constant source of difficulties and complications in a city like Karachi. One day you may face a power shortage and on another a transport strike. Sometimes rain plays havoc with the city and at other times there is no running water at the restaurant premises. These issues make running a business quite stressful. “You could have a restaurant full of guests, packed with a 100 people and you realise that the gas supply is cut!” explains Humaira. “There are moments when everything from the morning turns out wrong and everything is falling apart. That’s when you really want to throw in the towel and crawl back into bed. However, common sense prevails and after you get yourself back to calmer positions you relax and go back to work again.”
She recalls that when Cafe Aylanto first opened its doors, there was no concept of restaurants. “To change old mindsets and move people from hotels to our restaurant for something more personal, cosy and out of the ordinary, was a big challenge.” She relates an anecdote pertaining to the time when she had just come back from Italy after participating in a coffee-making training. “I came back with amazing roasted beans and was ready to make the best coffee ever. I decided to make some nice espressos, introduced them to our guests, but when they looked at the tiny espresso shots, they were shocked! Just convincing them that espresso coffee is served in a shot and not huge mugs, to which they were accustomed, was a task in itself.”
The determined, go-getter Humaira admits that she loves what she does. “I am a workaholic! I like getting things done quickly. I can’t be sitting in one place too long. Not even to watch an episode of a TV show!” However, she consciously schedules in time for her husband, her daughter and her own self. She adds that “Women are perfectionists. They want to be the perfect wives, understanding mothers, loving daughters and great hosts. Once in a while they need to realise they matter. From time to time it is important for a woman to put herself first.”
Humaira believes financial independence is very important, not just for her but for any other woman. It gives her a sense of self-esteem and confidence. “The feeling of knowing that you can stand on your own two feet is just great even if you have family support.” As far as ageing is concerned, Humaira reveals that she does not believe in fighting it since it is a natural process. However, she does try to eat healthy and exercise to keep herself fit. “I am a nature loving person so I go for holidays, take walks, swim and enjoy some time on the beach.”
“My Miracle moment comes just about every day. It’s the time when my guest gets up from his table, satisfied, and happily exclaims ‘wow, I loved my meal!’ That’s the minute I think I’ve done it.” Humaira says with a content smile. Steve Jobs said “The only way to do great work is to do what you love.” Humaira shows just that with her miracle journey.
Maliha Anwer Khan
She is a Banker
She is cheerful
She is invincible
“You get kicked around by circumstance but you must tell yourself I am still invincible,” says Maliha Anwer Khan, the head of Wealth Management and Non-Resident Banking at UBL. She believes that one makes a choice when presented with a difficult situation – either you allow circumstances/people to make you give up or you gather yourself, stand up again and face the world. Maliha has always chosen to face difficult situations with strength and confidence, no matter what.
Maliha has faced her share of challenges but feels that they are in no way comparable to the ones faced by the working women who belong to smaller towns. “Managing home along with work is difficult,” she admits. “I have to be there for my meetings and make sure there is running water in the taps at home.” Her job requires her to travel across Pakistan and has observed young women at work in various different cities and has makes her feel grateful about her own life. “They are the ones who face the real challenges, winning bread for their families, using public transport and dealing with men while sitting at the tele-counter. So, kudos to them. When I see them, I say to myself what am I complaining about?”
On the issue of gender equality in Pakistan, Maliha says that it is very much absent and women have to deal with the consequences of that on an everyday basis. “That term is misused. There’s no such thing as gender equality. We (women) are far superior. We reproduce, we have multiple emotions, we have the IQ, we are just better models. As far as the system is concerned, I’ve seen that women have to be smarter, harder working and need to prove themselves over and over again to get near the glass ceiling, let alone shatter it. There is inequality and we are measured against a higher bar,” She explains.
While Maliha does not want to be emotionally independent and feels she is dependent on other people for her happiness just as they are on her, financial independence for her is imperative. She believes working contributes immensely to a woman’s self esteem and confidence. Women are undermined and marginalised sometimes and by being working women, they can win themselves respect. She comments on domestic violence and says that it is a harsh reality but such a stigma is attached to it that many victims do not talk about it or ask for help. This must first be accepted and then steps be taken to address it. Even if a woman were to tell a friend that she is being victimised, the friend will not be able to offer much help other than feeling sorry for her or just giving her a shoulder to cry on. “Women in our country don’t know what to do next, how to get help, and that to me is a huge problem.”
Maliha believes that looking and feeling young is a matter of attitude. “I was nervous about ageing at first but then realised it kind of looks cool. These are the stripes I’ve gotten in the battlefield of life and I’ve emerged victorious. The key is to be comfortable in your skin.” she says with a smile. She does however indulge in regular facials and applies the Ponds Age Miracle cream as a routine. She also resorts to walking, swimming and practicing yoga to stay healthy.
For Maliha Anwer Khan, “There is a series of wonderful beautiful miraculous moments in one’s life; graduation, first job, the first car you drive, all these achievements give you immense happiness and it is all these moments when joined together make life beautiful.” Maliha, without a doubt is an example of someone who dreams big and knows how to reach out for her goals with dedication, strength and sheer passion. Her persistent will to just go out there and fulfil her aspirations is sure to inspire many other dreamers to carve out their own path and reach for the sky.
She is an economist
She is a mother
She is unwavering
Strong-willed and ambitious, Naheed Memon is currently the chairperson for Sindh Board of Investment where her primary responsibility is to facilitate and attract investment into the province. She is also a director at Kings Group and whenever she can find the time, she teaches economics, political economy and strategy at the Institute of Business Administration . As multifaceted as she is, she claims to find happiness easily. She finds it challenging to be in the public sector but teaching is also something that is very close to her heart. “In the public space I exist in right now, I find it very challenging and a part of me is really drawn to making things happen there. But when I step into my class I love that. Whether it’s Saturday or a Sunday, and I’m tired, when I get there, I feel it’s just so worth it. With all this on her plate, Naheed is also a wife and mother and excels as much in her personal life as in her professional life.
For Naheed, it has always been a few things going on in parallel. The challenge is to keep at it and not withdraw when some days become beyond hectic. Every working person faces work challenges, “it’s a game of patience and not of thrones,” she reaffirms, and has developed her own strategies to manage so many things together. Her family textile business has diversified and is well established now, hence, does not entail her direct involvement anymore. Focusing on the government responsibility is extracting but she decided to not give up other parts of her life for it, for example teaching. “I don’t do as much justice as I’d like to, but because my heart is in it, I find it hard to let go.” If you’re fair-minded, it’s possible to do a number of different things and strike a balance between them. Some days you focus more on one thing, the next day, some other. In Naheed’s rule book, as long as you’re doing justice to both, it’s completely okay. She believes anything can be conquered and it is only in times of physical weakness when she finds it hard to cope. “Even a simple flu can pull me down and make it difficult for me!” she says.
“More often than not, things don’t work out but you keep at it because eventually they do. That is what my experience has been like.” Every person living in Karachi knows how life can change in a minute here but overall conditions have improved. “We have less security concerns now and have managed to control occurrences of that nature,” she claims. She hopes that Karachi-ites are now seeing the end of that violent period. So, from an investor’s point of view the issue stems from inconsistency of policies rather than from security concerns as of now. “The domestic tussle going on between federation and provinces is a problem. There are reports filled with findings and stats, but they are often very generalized. You have to take them with a pinch of salt because surveys at best are limited and even biased.” In terms of policy making and institutional quality, Naheed believes we still have some way to go but is hopeful that in a few years, a lot of these issues will be resolved.
Naheed has inherited her strength from her mother and has tried to pass every bit of it to her children as well. She has brought them up as very independent individuals and prepared them for the real world from the very first day. “Even when they were young, their homework was their problem and I would not spoon-feed them,” she says. Today, she maintains a good relationship with them. She enjoys seeing them when they visit but has deliberately kept no expectations from them. Naheed is happy to live her own life and her children know she’s just a phone call away. Obviously it wasn’t always like this and things were especially tough when they were young. “The first few years are crucial and if you can give up yourself then, your children are forever yours.” She spent her initial time nurturing them, reading to them, making sure there was no dilution in her devotion in any way. Now, when she sees her children doing so well, she hates taking credit since she believes it has nothing to do with her. But at times Naheed gives in to that weakness. “I feel really happy that they’ve done really well and I’m proud of what they’ve achieved. Though I keep reminding myself it’s them, not me!” She never made her professional work their problem and believes children should not bear the burden of their parents’ sacrifices. “I’m not compelled to sacrifice, we do justice to the role we are given. A lot of multi-tasking and juggling was required to make sure I did the best of my abilities to look after them. I always worked but part time. They were a priority but my own development continued.”
Naheed does not have one major Miracle Moment and she does not believe in being consumed by pride for it weakens her. Instead she has had a series of small joyous moments. Doing well in university or learning something new from a book gives her happiness. Recently she started a new project where her team started e- trading on the commodity exchange. It’s the first time something like this is happening in Pakistan so that, too, is one of her many small miracles. Naheed Memon is someone who believes in her individuality and during her journey, in trying to be fair to the requirements of her family and children, she did not for once forget her own goals. And this is precisely why she is a Pond’s Miracle Woman for 2016.
She is a Managing Director
She is a sister
She is caring
Narisa Dharani never imagined that she would be where she is today. Ten years ago, her circumstances put her on the crossroads of a difficult choice, and being the eldest daughter of her family she decided to make the brave choice. When she lost her father while she was still doing her bachelors from the US she decided that she needed to step up. “The first challenge was dealing with younger siblings and a mother who was very dependent on my father,” she recalls. “I returned to Pakistan not much later. I joined office and was spoilt by everyone there which soon made me realize that they thought I wasn’t capable enough.”
Narisa, who is the Managing Director of Electropolymers Pvt. Ltd is not someone to shy away from a challenge. She was twenty three years old, she had just lost her father, she had to support her family, and to top it all off she was heading a business in a completely male dominated industry that she knew very little about. She went into a brief period of uncertainty when she was constantly referred to as a child who doesn’t know much. But with the support of her friends and family she got through each hurdle one step at a time. Narisa says with tears in her eyes that, “my dream was always to work under the supervision and guidance of my father. But being at his office without him, and that too being such a young boss, heading a staff of almost two hundred was a bit strange in the beginning.” She believes that all those difficulties have made her into a much better and stronger person today.
She has also come to the realization that her entire journey would have been much easier had she been a man. “From being accepted in the role of a boss, to being able to get the job done through dosti yaari, I feel that everything is a little easier for men. Had I been a man I would still have achieved everything I have today but probably much sooner,” says Narisa.
Independence is the ingredient that transforms a young girl into a strong woman according to Narisa. She believes that being out there in the world, meeting people, taking decisions, getting exposed to the realities of life are what makes a woman take control of their lives. Today she is extremely proud that she has managed the responsibility of her two younger sisters so well. “My miracle moment was when I sent my sisters to college. And now one has graduated and the other will soon graduate.” Narisa’s advice to young girls is that while it may sound clichéd, intense focus and hard work will enable them to achieve absolutely anything.
She takes care of herself by watching what she eats and unashamedly using the products available in the market. “I am very particular about my serums and my night creams and my eye creams,” she says with a smile. And while caring for herself is something that she needs to do in order to be fully productive, Narisa loves taking care of people close to her. Her mother, siblings, grandparents or whoever else needs her finds her to be there. The fact that she left a budding life in the US to return to Pakistan for the sake of her family is evidence of why she is a Miracle Woman today. With determination, a woman can make the seemingly impossible very much possible.
She is a banker
She is unconventional
She is confident
Nwal Gareeb, currently the Head of Distribution & Expansion at Burj Bank, has been in the field of banking for over 2 decades. She has always been unconventional with her approach – joining an industry which was pretty male dominated at that time and even now by being the only woman Islamic banker in a front end leadership role.
As is true for female bankers, Nwal had, and still has various challenges to face and many barriers to break. “When I started off 20 years ago, there weren’t many women in this field. The old boys club was very much there and it was difficult to reach that glass ceiling. I knew my entire career development would be plagued by it if I didn’t work hard and prove my worth. I had to put in a lot to earn credibility and to reach the point where I am today. Now, I see a lot of working women, especially in the banking field and they definitely have it a little easier than we did,” proclaims Nwal with a smile. She explains further how being involved in Islamic Banking is slightly more difficult than conventional banking. “The kind of customers you deal with here have a different background. Islamic scholars are part and parcel of this type of banking. They sometimes feel more comfortable having men handle their financial issues. Sometimes, lack of education also effects their perception of a woman’s abilities.” However, slowly, she does see the perception changing. As of now, only 3% of her customers are female, but as financial penetration and inclusion in Pakistan continues to grow, this number will increase, she believes. In addition, she hopes that many other women follow in her footsteps and join this industry.
Nwal says that she cannot stress enough on the importance of financial independence for women. “It certainly gives them more self confidence,” she explains, “but with the rate of divorce going up in Pakistan and the life expectancy remaining low, a woman must be self reliant for her own security.” The ups and downs a woman faces at the workplace allow her to become more self aware and acquire the skills to deal with life. “When I started banking I didn’t even know how to fill in a cheque or make a deposit!” she laughs. “But I learnt how to and a lot more.” Financial independence gives women the freedom and power to combat any issues that plague their life, even issues as gruesome as facing domestic violence. Women who are educated and empowered enough to earn their own livelihood, will always have the choice to take steps to protect themselves. Nwal is a firm believer of equal opportunities for both sexes and emphasizes that females should have the liberty to choose any career or lifestyle for themselves. “Whether they want to become a fighter pilot, a business person, or a scientist, it should be up to them and they should be compensated accordingly. It is good to see social media playing a great role in creating this awareness and to see women transform from being the shy, reserved beings to those who know how to grab the right opportunities.
Rather than having a Miracle Moment, Nwal sees a miracle personality in her father. “From a very young age, he taught us the value of self belief, independence and ability to go through difficult situations.” The bond between a father and a daughter definitely plays a crucial role into shaping the future of any woman. If the young women of our society are allowed to dream and given the motivation to keep dreaming, Pakistan will see a more strong set of confident females like Nwal enter the workforce and make our country a better place to live in.
She is a Cosmetologist
She is a mother
She is persistent
“Be like a duck. Calm on the surface but always paddling like the dickens underneath,” Rosyna Lakdawalla, owner of Personal Touch salon, quotes Michael Caine. Rosyna has been in the profession for the past 32 years, is a licensed cosmetologist and a trained beautician from the United States of America. She started off with a small set up at home but now has 30 girls working for her. She is also a mother of three and claims that she has never had to choose between motherhood and work.
Rosyna admits that there were several challenges to face along the way but with persistence and focus, she managed to raise her 3 children and also earn the love of her clients and respect in the market simultaneously. “I have always handled so many jobs at the same time. It is not easy being an administrator, a mother, a wife and training girls who work for me.” The key, for her, is to be positive, wear your blinders and keep going. “Sometimes, one of my key girls would walk out on me. I would hire them, train and teach them, take care of them but they would just leave without even a notice. That still happens but, with time, I have learnt how to covert my challenges into my strengths,” explains Rosyna.
Family support has been everything for Rosyna and according to her, she would have been nothing if it weren’t for their help and contribution. “My family and I have worked as partners. My parents and my husband did a lot when the kids were young. The kids were a part of my work; they would pitch in too and take care of each other.” Therefore, she feels her family is to be thanked for making her an emotionally strong and financially independent woman. She is so passionate about her work that she takes work to be a source of joy for herself. “My ‘me’ time is work time. I am very comfortable when at work and I get my highs from there.” Therefore, it is of no surprise that her Miracle Moment is every time she does a hairdo well. Conceiving an idea and then achieving it just as well as she had imagined gives her a sense of pride.
Rosyna is a firm believer of the fact that if she is happy, she will manage to keep everyone around her happy. Her contentment is the reason behind her stable home environment and successful business. Therefore, she practices meditation post salon hours and spends ample time with her family to relax and unwind. For her, one looks younger when one feels younger. Therefore, one must pursue his or her passion to be happy.
Rosyna Lakdawalla wants to let all young women stepping into the workforce know that if she could do it, so can they. “The sky is the limit. Just go out there and get what you want!” After all, dreams don’t work, unless you do.