By Murtaza Ali Shah
LONDON: A new network of professional Pakistani women has been launched to work collectively towards positive change for Pakistan and empowerment of its female population.
British Pakistan Foundation’s Women’s Network (BPFWN) was launched at Pakistan High Commission which saw the participation of more than 150 successful Pakistani origin women from different professions to create a mentorship and networking scheme exclusively for women who will then create contacts within Pakistan for social development projects.
Saira Awan-Malik, who heads the BPF Women’s Network, said it was time that Pakistani women took ownership of being Pakistani and pooled their resources and intellects to collectively play a role for the positive change that Pakistan needs badly.
“Our network aims to create channels of positive engagement. Once the immense potential within this group is unlocked, British Pakistani women will have a voice in shaping the agenda that drives change,” she said.
“We must be there to guide each other, to invest in each other’s business ideas, to share our professional contacts. Our motto should be ‘collaboration over competition’ because collaborating with each other will reap far-reaching benefits for all of us. We will build leadership skills and provide women with peer-to-peer support which will help them overcome some of challenges of the workplace. We also hope to highlight the success stories of Pakistani women to do positive image-building and also to create a cycle of achievement whereby other women are inspired to take their first step forward,” Ms Awan-Malik, who is a lawyer by profession, told The News.
Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner to the UK Syed Zulfiqar Gardezi told the participants about the measures Pakistani government was taking to safeguard their rights. He said that Islam’s history showed how the last Prophet (PBUH) respected women and gave them rights when there was no concept of women’s rights in the world. He said Pakistan appreciated the role of diaspora women who can play a great role in the development of Pakistan through their efforts. He said the last government had introduced legislation to stop harassment of women, attacks on them and how to empower them.
Asif Rangoonwala, Chairman of BPF, under whose umbrella this initiative has been launched, said: “We aim to create national hubs harnessing the collective acumen of the British Pakistani Diaspora community. Pakistanis can make speedy progress when they fully realise that their women must be empowered and highly educated. Without women’s education, we will forever be stuck.”
Suniya Qureshi, Executive Director of BPF, said the new initiative will aim to collaborate with existing women’s networks across industries to mobilise untapped talent, share expertise and ensure sector support for young British Pakistanis moving up the career ladder.
Ahlya Fateh, Managing Director of luxury fashion brand Tata Naka and previously the managing editor of Tatler Magazine, Ayesha Mustapha, founder of an ethical fashion brand, and Councillor Zarina Khalid were the inspirational speakers who shared their experiences of breaking into the mainstream through hard work and support they received from their local networks.