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‘Women can beat anyone in any field’

Karachi: Almost all speakers at the Women Leaders Summit, held on Wednesday, stressed that gender was only a term as women could beat anyone in any profession if only they were determined and passionate enough.

At the daylong summit, there were many prominent Pakistani women who shared their experiences, struggles and success stories. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy received a huge round of applause as she came on stage. Chinoy, who recently won an Oscar nomination for a short documentary, spoke about highlighting women issues through film. She said the day she won an Emmy award, her father died, and added that “today I feel that he’s smiling down at me.” Chinoy said her other ventures included a documentary on the underground movement of women in Saudi Arabia.

Dr Seema Suvarioglu from Turkey spoke about women, modern-day living and spirituality. Sharing her story, she said that in the hustle of busy working life one tends to disconnect from taking care of the spiritual area of life, “but it is the most important”. She was of the view that out of the four basic dimensions of life, i.e. physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual investment, spiritual investment was something not many people delved into.

The panel session with Ayesha Tammy Haq, corporate lawyer, activist and journalist, was the most interactive one. Four most prominent women entrepreneurs of Pakistan — Sana and Safinaz, Farzeen Irtizaz and Saulat Salahuddin — were invited as panelists. Rather than being formal, the session was quite interactive as the guests spoke about how they survived obstacles and did what they wanted to do in life.

However, all of them agreed on one thing — that not once did they face gender bias from people, either in their family or outside. Speaking shyly at first, designer duo Sana and Safinaz, who are sisters-in-law, admitted openly that they did not go to college or acquired any formal education for the designing that they did but the fame that they received now was humbling.

“We have been in the business for 22 years now. The earlier phase of our journey was full of setbacks and struggles. Our brand started very slowly but became steady after a while. Overall, it was worth the effort that we put in,” said Safinaz answering a question from Haq.

Sana added that what took them 22 years now took only about four years, thanks to the “exposure and knowledge the teenagers of today have”.

Farzeen Irtizaz’s story was a bit different from others as it started after her surviving a disaster. Now heading a huge business, Irtizaz got her foot and back injured during the earthquake of 2005.

“While in bed, I knew I couldn’t let myself be dependent on anyone,” she said. Her husband who was in the army, was also by her side and she was grateful for the fact that she did not lose anyone.

One of her friends from abroad asked her to do something while sitting at home and Irtizaz decided to start a clothing line. Now she is selling it to millions of women across Pakistan as well as in New York and George Town in America.

Saulat Salauddin, a manufacturer by profession, said that all it took for women to come out of home and do something was to “believe that they have a gift and needs to be shared with others”.

“In our 40s now, we are still raring to go and will not stop,” said Sana. While answering a question, Safinaz said that at times people made a vital mistake by presuming that fashion was frivolous. “It is not. We are creating jobs and it is a moneymaking business which is serious about its goals.”

Vaqar Ahmad Khan, general manager training, Pakistan State Oil, showed a picture compilation depicting various women achievers from different countries. Before beginning the slide show, he said that women could no doubt multitask and they needed to be given the respect they deserved in society.

His presentation included inspirational quotes from many women who went on to achieve a lot, just on the basis of their grit and determination. The last session was headed by Dr Huma Baqai, anchor with Pakistan Television, and included Pakistan’s first woman architecture Yasmeen Lari, Nasreen Haque and barrister Nausheen Ahmad.

Speaking about the recent laws that have been passed regarding crimes against women, Barrister Nausheen Ahmad said that what was more important was to change the mindset of the people, and only then would the laws have the desired efficacy.

Meanwhile, Yasmeen Lari said that the earlier generation had it easier than the present one. “We knew people when we started something. Yes, the bar always got higher for us but nowadays in every business one has to immediately impress otherwise you are gone. The longevity of everyone’s career depends on it.”

While during a discussion, Ayesha Tammy Haq said to the women sitting in the audience that till 1975 women in France were not allowed to work outside home without the husband’s permission. “Looking at that we are way better, as in the 70s many women in Pakistan not only worked but took care of their children as well.”

Source: The News