This week, our Pond’s Miracle Women mentor is Sana Hashwani, the co-owner of the high end fashion empire Sana Safinaz. Sana’s fashion sense speaks for itself, having been in the industry for the past 25 years, she has dedicated time to her studio working tirelessly to create the perfect piece of attire. Sana proves that hard work and consistency pays off as long as you keep trying new things and is a motivation for women to take risks. Sana has selected women that have aspired against the odds with hardwork and dedication. She has chosen the CEO of an upcoming hotel brand in Pakistan, the Editor of ‘Paperazzi’, a Yogi turned entrepreneur, a highly dedicated surgeon, a PR Guru, a fashion designer, a versatile professor of Art at IVS, a Chartered Accountant who is the COO of AKU facilities and last of all Karachi’s most well known Makeup Artists and Entrepreneur, Bina Khan.
She is a makeup artist
She is an entrepreneur
She is a problem solver
“I’m a makeup artist and own a salon and a photography studio.” At 40, Bina Khan feels like she has achieved a little and has a long way to go. She started working when she turned 19 and married her high school sweetheart 15 years ago. Her salon is her second home and a safe zen place for her clients.
Running a business in Pakistan is a challenge in itself. “In Pakistan, any business owner could actually run an IDP camp I think! We can generate our own electricity, our own water, you’re not particularly supported as small businesses, all of us are floundering and working out how to do things for ourselves.” Other countries have a proper structure, they have unions and councils. In Pakistan, there is no proper system but Bina also sees this as a great learning experience. “You learn to deal with problems as you go along.” She spent some time in Sri Lanka and noticed that they had a ministry for floral decoration. The ministry set trade schools in the right areas, where eager girls would come to learn. These girls hadn’t even finished schools, nor could they even write, but due to this government initiative, they went on to become the highest earners in their household. Pakistan barely has any trade schools or any sort of government support, and despite that, we see so many pioneers emerging. “It’s amazing how people have created stuff out of thin air.”
As a bridal makeup artist, Bina struggles with people who have a constant desire to be fair. “We get into deep, long, and annoying conversations about post-colonial hang ups. Be proud to be brown! What’s with the fair stuff?” Complexion should not matter. Confidence matters. Education matters. Strength, talent, efficiency and usefulness matter. Especially for girls in this misogynistic society. “If you’re trying to be on a level playing field with men, I think young girls need to gather themselves and have the confidence to ask for equal treatment. They have to be quite serious, have to be more composed, and not kid around. Prove you’re strong, it’s okay to own your power.”
It’s important to be financially independent as a human, but Bina recognizes the fact that a lot of women are keen on being taken care of by their husbands, which is okay too. Personally, she’s always had the drive to contribute something to the world, and feels everyone else should also. “The lady who doesn’t earn any money may be running a charity school so as long as you’re doing your bit for the earth why not. It’s not about money, it’s about usefulness.”
Bina is all about self-care. In fact she entered this field because of her own skin troubles. “I have very problematic skin and taught myself to cover up. I do everything I tell everybody else to do. Men don’t think they need to take of their skin but it’s just dirt and must be cleaned up! All you have to do is get a monthly facial and a good face wash. You don’t need to be lavish. Simple things work.”
Living in Karachi, we’re all aware of city conditions and how calm can turn into chaos in a matter of minutes. Therefore, when the going gets tough, Bina goes for vacations and switches off from her busy life. She doesn’t use her phone much and takes a break from social media. “Some moments are yours and should just be yours so I try and do that. It’s pretty hard to stop.”
Bina’s Miracle Moment was the first time she saw her name on a billboard. She would go round and round the roundabout to see it. At that time she was opening her current salon. “We are a tiny business, for me it felt super uber cool to have my name up there. I was just like wow!” This is precisely our reaction when we see Bina Khan’s transformational looks on brides. She is one of the top make-up artists in town and it is not surprising why!
Iqraa Hassan Mansha
She is an entrepreneur
She is a mother
She is patriotic
The CEO of Nishat Hotels and Properties, this young mother is successful, patient and extremely down to earth. She is someone who values the lessons life has to teach. Iqraa Hassan Mansha started off with a very small boutique hotel in Lahore and has recently opened the state of art Emporium Mall, which she calls her gift to the people of Lahore. “The mall has something for everyone, young or old. Almost every brand in Pakistan has a retail outlet there, there’s a large food court and an entertainment zone for children. Nishat Hotel is however, closer to my heart and since it was my first project, it taught me a lot, from brand building to how people think and function,” says the multi faceted Iqraa. While managing such large projects in the service sector of Pakistan, Iqraa is also a wife and a mother and knows how to value and nurture relationships.
The greatest challenge she faces is dealing with the issues of HR. “The talent in Pakistan is beyond amazing and I find it my duty to bring out the best from all my employees. It is important for me to create the right balance between the carrot and the stick. Motivating people is the key to excelling and I strive to do my best in that,” Iqraa explains. Striking the crucial balance between professional and personal life is also a major struggle for her and she believes that children should be the most important project for any woman since there is no way to go back in time later. “At 8 p.m. just before I put my boys to bed, I have a slight silent nervous breakdown,” she laughs, “and giving the due time to my work and to my children is probably the toughest thing for me. I have now decided that the answer to this problem is sleeping less! I start very early in the morning to make sure I complete all the tasks I am supposed to for the day which includes giving quality time to my boys. Women unnecessarily make themselves go through the guilt of not doing enough. You don’t have to be glued to your kids the entire day. The little time I spend with them is quality time when we really bond. At the end of the day when I go home, I am motivated and excited to see them,” she explains.
Iqraa believes that with changing times, standing up on your own feet is imperative for every man and woman. Now, the only important thing for girls is not just looking good and getting married. More and more girls now want to do something of their own and put their education to use. But while striving to make her own mark in the world, she never forgets her responsibility as a mother. “As a woman you have more responsibility of raising your kids well even if the father is very involved. I do sometimes like taking my time off but for me the best thing to do is to have a nice day out with my children so we can all have a good time together. That creates a nice balance and helps me unwind.”
While Iqraa always seems to be on the top of her game, she too, has had her moments of weakness. However, she is quick in dealing with them. “Sometimes getting it all done is really hard. On and off, I do question why don’t I just relax and take it easy but soon enough I realise how lucky I am to have the opportunity of doing all that I am doing. My work brings about so many positive changes in me. I meet new people, encounter new struggles every day, the learning curve is beyond amazing.”
Iqraa has her mother to thank for making her the enterprising person she is today. “Years ago I would go to a wedding and would think about how good the bride looks, the groom could probably have been better and whether or not the decor is nice. But after becoming a mother my perception of life has changed. Being a mother is hard work. From being pregnant to making the effort of getting your children through the years at school, instilling the drive to work hard, teaching them about being balanced and inculcating the sense of religion, it all takes a lot. So now when I go to a wedding, I take it as a celebration of the success of the parents,” she says.
While Miracle Woman Iqraa has much to be proud of professionally, her Miracle Moment is the birth of her second child. “I had a lot of issues with the pregnancy. Before, I would worry about the gender and looks of the baby. At that point I realised a normal, healthy baby is really a miracle and gift from God and I can’t thank Him enough for my son.” Iqraa’s journey shows that no matter how successful a woman is, she is a mother before anything else and her children are in fact her greatest assets and the real reason for her happiness.
She is an editor
She is a mother
She is fun
“I have to-do lists for the week and on Sunday I realize I didn’t get any of the things done. Every Monday morning, I feel I can’t go on anymore.” But Mehr manages to pull through every time and the cycle continues. 2 years ago, Mehr, along with her partner Sameena Khan, started a glossy magazine called ‘Paper Magazine.” They were then approached by ‘Pakistan Today’ to rebrand their weekly magazine. It was quite a dilemma since Mehr was pregnant with her second child and had to give time to family, but the opportunity was too good to pass. Cheerful and bubbly by nature, Mehr has the conviction and foresight to look at the bigger picture and after discussion with her partner they decided to go for it. Today, Mehr is the publishing editor of the popular and trend-setting weekly ‘Paperazzi’.
“Your focus changes once you become a mother. But what you need to do is push yourself harder, organize yourself, and prioritise what is important. There are times when you will have to choose between motherhood and work. Tomorrow is my daughter’s 7th birthday and the first day of a fashion week. I will miss the fashion week and it will not be the end of the world.” Mehr gives maximum time to her children while they are up but after their bedtime it’s all about self-love. She unwinds with TV shows, reads books, and hangs out with friends and family. She feels the older she gets, the more she needs to give herself a break and relax. Her house, according to her, is a ‘madhouse’. A large family; 4 siblings, very hands on parents and a lot of love that goes around. Mehr’s mother is her best friend. She has always been there for her, pushing her to be the best version of herself, and catching her whenever she has fallen.
Initially, Mehr and Sameena used to get sleepless nights over every typo and missed deadline. But with Paperazzi they changed their pace completely. Mehr realized that mistakes happen, and that they didn’t have to be as hard on themselves as they were. With experience, they have learnt how to deal with people, customers, and compensations. Mehr recalls that “once the binding of the magazine wasn’t done properly and it was falling apart and I was having a panic attack. I felt like quitting at that moment. There have been many moments when we wanted to quit. Once we reached our 100th issue we knew that we were in control and we could do this.”
Mehr’s children are her little miracles. She has watched her children grow and as they all mature and develop their distinctive personalities it makes her proud. Her magazine is something that has shaped her life. She remembers how she and her partner could not even have imagined running a weekly magazine. There were fights, logistical problems, and breakdowns but they always kept on pushing. What is important for her is to strive for progress and not perfection. She believes that if one pursues progress then every setback and every challenge is motivation to work even harder. The day they published their 100th issue was a major miracle moment for her. A whole campaign was organized around the 100th issue which became a huge social media success. Now, Paperazzi is on its 160th issue and the pressure is on. But seeing how Mehr has tackled every challenge thrown her way so far, we are convinced that she is going waltz her way to many bigger successes.
She is a doctor
She is a kind-hearted
She is adaptive
Trained as a colon and rectal surgeon, as well as a general surgeon, Dr.Sadaf Khan is currently working at Agha Khan University, Karachi, as both; a clinician and an educator. She is a mother to three teenagers and even though she has much on her plate, she is a constant learner and strives to keep adapting with time. Change was something that she used to fear but has learnt that accepting and adopting change is, in fact, healthy.
While Sadaf feels going through the strenuous process of becoming a doctor was not that difficult, since she came from a family on doctors, getting into a male dominated field was a bit of a challenge. However, she is glad about the fact that because women like herself continued to push for it, the current trend is much different and there are many more females preparing to become surgeons. “I decided to go to US for training and when you went into residency, for every 6 men there was maybe one woman taken in,” she explains. “Even now, patients are doubtful of a female surgeon till they get to know and trust her. In the general populous there still isn’t acceptance.” She admits surgery is a difficult field to be in and balancing professional and personal life is not an easy task for a woman who decides to pursue it. Your time is not necessarily your own and having the support of your family is imperative. Therefore, women must choose this field with caution. “When I am counselling young medical students or young trainees I say that look if you decide to have a family, all the success of your life becomes moot if your children don’t do well. Your children are your extension, something tangible that you leave behind in the world. If they don’t succeed in life it’s a very harsh thing for a parent to look back and say I should have tried harder,” says Sadaf. Female surgeons do have it difficult and the choices they have to make on a daily basis are not easy, she admits.
Sadaf was able to manage creating a work life balance as she had completed the bulk of her training when she had her children. She was much older and that allowed her to become calmer and wiser. “When you’re younger, little things seem big. When you’re older you shrug it off and say, so what if missed the first step what’s the big deal? That’s how I dealt with it, by not feeling guilty,” says Sadaf with a smile. As a surgeon, a woman has to understand that if she is not able to be there at all times for her children, it is because someone else needed her more. She is taking care of other people’s wellbeing and saving lives. Sadaf makes it a point to make up for the lost time later when she wraps up her work. She adds that when a woman decides to have children, she is responsible for them and their needs but at times, it is important for her to put herself first. “It is not healthy for anyone in any kind of setting to be the one to make the sacrifices while everyone else walks all over you but any relationship is a give and take so sometimes you put yourself first and at other times, your partner, child or a parent.” To maintain her own health, she practices yoga and makes sure she cleanses and moisturizes her skin to keep it fresh and young.
The soft spoken and the very beautiful Sadaf believes that in today’s fast paced life, it does not make any sense for a woman to be dependent on her male counterpart for monetary support. As far as emotional independence is concerned, she says “everybody should be emotionally independent, whether male or female. That doesn’t mean you should be cold but know what is best for you- emotional health is very important and it should start at the level of our children where we teach them how to deal with their emotions and how to be confident with their presentation.”
Even women like Sadaf who are very passionate about their work, feel weak at times. Sadaf felt weak at the time of the birth of her first child, just like any other working mother would. “I was still in the last year of training and right after 10 days of my delivery I had to be back at work. I used to be on a call every other night, so I’d leave home at 5 am and I’d come home the next day at about 2-3 pm. That was a tough time – when it’s your first born, you feel guilty.” Yet, she says “dig in your heels and keep going. Such a time too, passes.”
Miracle Woman Sadaf Khan’s journey shows how, if women stick it out, the hurdles that life throws your way become a thing in the past before they even know it. Sadaf explains how her mother had always set the bar very high for her and that has truly paid and made her who she is. Her Miracle Moments are many, including the days when she helps out a patient or a simple moment such as spending quality time with her children at the dinner table. It is the little things that bring the greatest of joys in life and it is the willpower that knows no obstacles.
She is an entrepreneur
She is a mother
She is emotionally aware
“When I moved to New York, something about Pakistan kept calling me back. Later when my family moved to Singapore, I had the opportunity to move there, but I decided to stay here,” says the warm and very energetic Salina Taqi. After graduating from Smith College in USA, she picked a career in investment banking but life took an unexpected turn when recession hit and the next thing Salina knew, she was out of a job. It was that low moment in her life when she stumbled upon yoga and her life completely changed. She strongly believes that whatever happens, happens for a reason. Today she’s a mother as well as the co-founder of two companies, ‘Yoga Ex’, Pakistan’s first revolutionary hot yoga studio and ‘Ultimate Detox’, Pakistan’s first cold pressed and raw food juicery. Salina has also launched Salina Cosmetics which is an all organic beauty product range. A lot of what Salina has, she owes it to her mother and thanks her for all the guidance. “Her strength and support is the reason behind the success of each and everyone in my family. She’s a super woman and my wonder woman.”
“I remember I worked from day 1. During college, I earned my own pocket money working in the kitchen, alumni house or the library. Financial independence is true power and I recommend it for all women.” Salina is required to multitask all the time and maintains to-do lists to take her through the day. There are moments of weakness, she admits, when one is on the go all the time, trying to do so many things simultaneously. She remembers once she spent the whole day working and setting up the juice bar with her partner without having eaten at all, which made her literally black out. She somehow picked herself up, suffered a minor concussion yet overcame it through positive reaffirmation.
Salina now tries to go through the day in a disciplined manner but this is an alien concept to a lot of people. “People don’t understand the value of time; they stumble to their 11 am meetings at 1. Best is to accept, go with the flow and breathe. I am what I tell myself I am, so whenever there’s a struggle I repeat to myself: I am a strong independent woman, I can do this, I am enough,” she says when explaining her mantra of success. She advises other young girls to do the same, and to not be bothered by the opinion of others. “Do not fall into that rat race, love yourself, be focused, tell your subconscious you can and it starts bringing it together. When you’re unhappy, put on a nice big smile, tell yourself I’m happy and your physiology changes your psychology.”
The dynamic Salina is a proponent of work-life balance. While helping out others through her yoga sessions, she ensures she keeps her mind at peace too. She begins each day with positive meditation, “I sit up tall as soon as I wake up and count all my blessings, spend 5-10 minutes on just focusing on my body, breathing and being grateful.” She is particular about giving time to herself and her family despite her busy schedule, which has taken a toll on Salina’s social life, but she’s clear about her priorities. Among other things, her daily to-do lists also have ‘son time’ during which she focuses just on her son. After her evening yoga sessions, she spends half an hour in a nice long bubble bath which helps her unwind and rejuvenate. She also loves spending time with her husband, “we are one team, once a week we have date night.”
Being a yoga instructor, Salina believes in being emotionally aware – aware of your mind, thoughts, life and destiny. Salina’s journey is an inspiration for all those who sometimes get pulled down by their own do-lists for the day. The answer for them too might lie in starting the day with yoga to inhale confidence and exhale weaknesses. Trying out something new may not be easy, but it may open doors to a world which is unknown, but is beautiful and rewarding.
Sana Hafeez Sheikh
She is a PR Guru
She is a designer
She is evolving
“I’m constantly evolving. I am trying to progress to a newer place and learning new things. I consider myself a work in progress.” Sana’s journey began as a student in New York. After graduating, she was having a great time working with Diesel and as an assistant stylist to Ford Modelling Agency. She was considering getting a Masters degree but decided to test the waters out here in Pakistan. After a lot of contemplation, she took the most difficult decision of her life; she moved back to Pakistan and started working with Sana Safinaz. “I don’t even have words for how good they are. Working for them has been one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Initially it was difficult to align Pakistani traditional designs with international designs and concepts, but gradually she found her way forward. Currently Sana is heading PR for Sana Safinaz while simultaneously being their brand representative for Outhouse Jewelry. Sana has managed to sail through, learn a lot and it’s been an amazing journey so far.
“With jewelry I’ve brought in to Pakistan the biggest challenge has been dealing with the customs and shipping departments. It took a lot of time and patience to align a way of working.” Now it’s all about routines and time management for Sana. According to her getting these two things sorted in your life makes it easy to manage everything. It was especially important for her considering both her areas of work are very different from each other. Her weekends were taken up by jewelry and allocating enough time to it was challenging. According to her, hard work and dedication always pay off. She advises young women to be financially independent since it’s essential for personal growth. Women today are educated, talented and accomplished, and these traits go hand-in-hand with being financially independent. “You derive happiness from knowing you are independent. It is so liberating. Just be confident and believe in yourself. If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Sana has been blessed with incredible support from her family, friends, and husband. She thanks her mother especially for “all the qualities she has passed on to me, for always believing in me, and constantly reminding me to be grateful to God every day.” This is what has kept her away from feeling weak and incapable amongst all the hustle and bustle. Being human, she obviously gets tired and drained out. Sana’s favorite remedy is getting massages, even if she has to call someone home to get it done. It’s something that makes her day. She has a basic skin regime that she follows daily. It is evident that self-care is a high priority in her life.
The ‘House of Sana Safinaz’ has been her home away from home. It has become her family and where she draws her strength from. Life before Sana Safinaz was good but Sana is thankful for being here. “I wouldn’t have been here, giving this interview, if it wasn’t for them.”
“My miracle moment was when I had both brands, Sana Safinaz and Outhouse Jewelry, collaborate for fashion week. It was truly amazing seeing the response the audience gave to both shows and I felt exhilarated. I never imagined I would do it one day and seeing it unfold in front of my eyes was a moment of immense pride for me.” With the pace at which she’s going, we won’t be surprised to find Sana’s achievements gracing magazines more and more frequently. In fact, we’re looking forward to it!
She is a fashion designer
She is a mother
She is unyielding
With a heart of gold and a cheerful demeanor, Miracle Woman Sehr Kazmi knows well how to juggle motherhood and work. “I am a mother of twins and with that I am working with my mother in law, helping her in her business as one of the most prestigious fashion designer houses in Pakistan. I am loving every bit of it at the moment,” she says with contentment. The foundation of the family business was laid by the senior Mrs.Kazmi, passed down to her daughter Bunto Kazmi, who has now the support of her daughter in law, Sehr, to take the business forward and achieve new heights. “I want to build on the strong foundation laid by them, bringing innovation and fresh outlooks to the designs. I don’t ever want to disappoint them,” explains Sehr when talking about her ambitions.
While Sehr believes prioritizing is the key to success and that is exactly what helps her manage each day as it comes, her life is not free of challenges. In carving her career path, she does feel bogged down sometimes because of the demands she has to meet as a mother. “Looking after 2 babies is difficult and sometimes weak moments take over when I want to give up,” explains Sehr. However, because of the support of her husband and in laws and the sense of positivity instilled in her by her mother, she snaps out of pessimism very quickly. “I am learning how to turn every obstacle into a non-obstacle and every defeat a learning ground. The point is to keep moving forward and not letting difficult situations to pull you down. You should just focus on yourself and your work. Worrying about what others are doing will never take you anywhere,” Sehr proclaims.
For Sehr, financial independence is crucial. “But it is also crucial to not forget your roles as a parent, as a daughter and as a partner in your efforts to achieve your goal. To me, a woman is not successful until she does justice to all her relationships, personal or professional,” believes Sehr. She feels that today, everyone is in rat race, trying to beat the rest and are oblivious to their surroundings. “Achievements taste the sweetest when they are shared with your loved ones,” she says with a smile.
While she loves her work, Sehr’s Miracle Moment is her set of twins. “Shaping them into free thinking girls in a world where there are so many norms to follow is my miracle moment.” Sehr is an amazing mother, values all her relationships and is extremely dedicated to her work. She is what she is today because of her mother. “I am what I am because of the unrelenting love and tolerance shown towards me by my mother. I love her more than anything in the world,” says Sehr with emotions twinkling in her eyes. Indeed, to have a daughter as loving and as strong as Sehr, it takes a devoted mother and exceptional parenting. There is no doubt in the fact that when Sehr’s daughters grow up, they will be her best reflection and much more.
Seveen Muneer Bawany
She’s an artist
She’s a textile designer
Miracle Woman Seveen Muneer is cheerful, affable and just the right blend of tradition and modernity. A textile designer by qualification and having the experience of working with some of the top fashion houses in Pakistan, Seveen is currently a permanent faculty member at Indus Valley School, Karachi. For her, family comes first and she doesn’t believe in living a life with regrets. Therefore, to create work-life balance, she quit her demanding job at Sana Safinaz and decided to pursue her passion in arts through teaching just after she got married. She is glad she made the decision to give more time to her family and now is busy being a good wife, daughter and an arts instructor. “I also do wall art, pen and ink drawings, and have also done a few low key shows. The next one I do, I will do with a gallery. I also free- lance for fashion houses from time to time to remain hands on with my skills,” says Seveen.
“I come from a family of very hardworking women. From my mother to my sisters and my cousins, everyone has been doing great things. That was such a challenge for me, to become something that matches up to the expectations and successes of the rest of the women I am surrounded by,” Seveen proclaims. She always wanted to be known for her own work rather than being recognized as the cousin or the sister of someone successful. Therefore, after graduating with a Master’s degree in textiles from Central Saint Martins in London, she returned to Karachi and carved a special place for herself in the textile sector. She had the desire to, in some way, give back to the society and her place of education so teaching was the most natural and perfect way of achieving that. “I did my undergraduate degree from IVS so teaching there is such a great pleasure for me. Some of the teachers that taught me are still there and they are my mentors,” she says. However, while going back to your roots brings to you a sense of familiarity and comfort, it has its own challenges. “To have them be your colleagues and not your teachers is a bit of a struggle,” she says with a laugh. For a short while, Seveen did have a bit of struggle dealing with students who were so close to her own age but very soon she realized this is, in fact, her strength. “I know how to strike the balance between being their teacher and also their friend. They respect me a lot.”
For this young artist, financial independence is of utmost importance. “The leaps are huge as compared to say 15 years ago in terms of the freedom women enjoy and it is time they embraced it and defied the gender moulds. If a woman is successful, it is for the betterment of the family, not just financially, but in the way that she is able to prepare her children for the real world,” believes Seveen. “When the mother works, it reflects in the mindset of her children.”
Happy with the choices she has made in life, Seveen is a firm believer of the fact that if a woman puts her family first, they also give her the space and freedom to be who she wants to be. “My husband is my backbone and lets me be the person that I am,” she says. For a young girl stepping into the workforce today she has two things to say – be positive and own up to your mistakes. She feels the younger generation today is too narcissist in this age of social media and they need to accept when they are at fault.
As far as her Miracle Moment is concerned, it was during her Master’s degree when she was one of the 15 students who were chosen to showcase their thesis project to a wide audience at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. There is no doubt that this talented artist has many more feathers to put in her cap in the years to come. With her family right by her side, she is sure to make a special name for herself in the field of art and design in Pakistan.
She is a Chief Operating Officer
She is a mother
She is a doer
“Nothing is impossible. Hard work, focus and determination; if you have these 3 things you won’t be less than anyone else.”Shagufta Hassan’s two elder siblings were the studious ones while she was amongst the younger ones who never wanted to study. After performing poorly in her intermediate exams, she saw her dream of becoming an engineer shatter. She did not have a plan B for her career and the only option she had was to switch to commerce. After failing to get into any college in Karachi, Shagufta decided to pursue her education privately. She had learnt her lesson. It was her fault she was in this situation and it was time to make amends. Hence she immersed herself in her studies with fervor and eventually obtained a national level position in her exams.
Shagufta was ready to take on more challenges. She convinced her family to put marriage on the backseat temporarily while she studied to become a Chartered Accountant. The field comprised of only a handful of women at that time. The passing percentage was 1% and Shagufta managed to get through it in 4 years. She passed all her exams in her first attempt and was one of the few to complete her CA in the 4 year duration. By the time her results came, she had gotten married and soon had a child. She had just begun her career when her baby started falling ill very frequently. Her entire family asked her to quit her job, and after consulting several people, she decided to work part time. However, luck was not on her side and she failed to find a job. Instead, she took up hourly based teaching assignments and started teaching CA students. This way, even after 5 years of not working professionally, she was able to retain all her knowledge.
After Shagufta’s children got older, she switched back to a full time job. Coming back to work after such a long period, however, left her at a disadvantage against her colleagues but she was determined to catch up. Her field was male dominated but she had faith in her capabilities and knew she was as good, if not better, than her male colleagues. As a qualified CA, she did her article-ship from AF Ferguson and Co and completed her advanced management program from Spain. Today, Shagufta is a mother of two lovely children, trustee of a charitable organization and much, much more. “Currently I’m working as COO of AKU hospital, clinical labs and outreach services. I’m basically responsible for 236 lab specimen collection units from Karachi through to Gilgit, 11 stat labs spread through the country, one tertiary lab at stadium road campus, and 12 outpatient medical centers in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore.”
Despite all her achievements, Shagufta is no stranger to self-doubt. In fact every day there are moments of weakness. “Whatever weakness I highlight; workplace pressure, home pressure, kid’s demands, husband’s demands, one thing everyone has to be very clear about, is their goals. Every moment of weakness I encounter, I step back and give time to myself to reflect. What went wrong and how can I correct it? If you start thinking like that, you’ll be able to figure out your way through any situation. Life does give you chances, there are several paths. Sometimes you need to take a detour even when the goalpost is within your sight”.
According to Shagufta these goals should include financial and emotional independence since they are the two most important elements of life for a woman. Every woman should have the ability to support herself if she chooses to. That way she won’t have to compromise. In our society a lot of women depend on their families for little things that provide them happiness. Looking back, this is the only thing Shagufta would change if she had the chance – to create room for herself. Somewhere between her studies, family, and career she lost sight of herself. She stopped giving time to herself, stopped reading, listening to music and put a lot of unnecessary restrictions on herself. Looking back at moments like these, Shagufta feels indebted to her mother for everything she did for her during this time. “For the nights she stayed awake for me, perseverance she taught me, love and care she gave me, thank you mother. I miss you.”
It is seldom that people encounter life-changing moments and moments that have the ability to give someone a lot of power and courage. Chartered Accountancy was such a challenge for Shagufta. She wasn’t the best student, pass percentage was low and there were only a handful of women in the field. But managing to complete her CA despite all the odds was Shagufta’s miracle moment. “It was like climbing a mountain. When I did it, that moment gave me power and courage. It reaffirmed to me that I am capable of doing anything I want to.” Thank you Shagufta for teaching us it is never too late to start anew, for teaching us to have faith in ourselves and embrace each challenge with a stride.