Sustaining ventures amidst restrictions and lockdowns might be a challenging task, but some Kashmiri women have grown resilient enough to rise above their hardships. Not only have they succeeded in their endeavour, but also inspired others to become their own boss.
By Swati Joshi
PANDEMIC might’ve already paralysed many dream ventures and economic units, but resilience to rise above one’s adversities makes Kashmir’s new-age self-starters inspiration for educated youth who want to become employer than employee in their life.
It was the same resolve which made a young Kashmiri woman to infuse a new lease of life in traditional Kashmiri dead rug called Namada.
The same steely resolve motivated a young Kashmiri bride to step into her late father-in-law’s shoes to become a prominent bat-maker in town.
With pandemic still locking people in their home, a young Kashmiri self-starter has come forward to make mandatory masks for masses.
And then there’s a moving story of an educated and empowered Kashmiri girl who not only became her family’s support, but also rebranded Kashmir’s pashmina shawls.
Besides resolve, the ability to take risks equally fuels these stirring stories.
When a young Kashmiri florist left her government job for her passion, she received brickbats for throwing the “secure income” out of the window.
A resolve to take risks makes these young Kashmiri self-starters an inspirational class for the strife-torn society. Kashmir Observer compiles the spirited stories of five such self-starters who dared to dream differently.
Arifa Jan always wanted to be an independent self-starter, but knew that it wouldn’t be a walk in the park for her. But her resolve eventually made her to set up three manufacturing units to revive the traditional Kashmiri rug called Namada.
She went on to employ 25 Kashmiri artisans and trained more than 100 Kashmiri women. Arifa also increased the wages of the artisans from Rs 175 to Rs 450 per day.
Namada is a traditional carpet made by rolling and pressing wool. In the past, it was widely used by Kashmiris in their drawing rooms during winters. But the sale of Namada declined due to the advent of a new variety of fashionable carpets in the market.
Arifa pursued two-year Craft Management and Entrepreneurial Leadership program at Craft Development Institute (CDI) after completing her graduation from Kashmir University.
Unable to pay the fees for the leadership program, she was granted a scholarship by CDI and went to Kyrgyzstan for specialized training.
After Masters, she started working on the Namada revival project, setting up her first business unit at Srinagar’s Sekidafar locality in 2012.
She was awarded US Citizenship Eligibility Certificate in 2014 by the United States State Department for Women Entrepreneurship Programme.
After returning from the US, she opened two more units in Srinagar’s Noorbagh and Nawa Kadal localities.
It was Riffat Masoodi’s father-in-law, Ghulam Rasool Masoodi, who had started a cricket bat manufacturing factory in south Kashmir’s Pampore town in the 1970s.
After his demise, the shut shop bankrupted the once prosperous family.
But when going got tough, the daughter-in-law decided to revive the defunct unit.
The 40-year-old mother of two children restarted the factory and became Kashmir’s only woman cricket bat-maker.
Today, as head of Masoodi Arts and Sports firm, Riffat is an inspiring story for many.
A graduate from Srinagar’s Vishwa Bharati College of Education, Riffat has managed to handle her business amidst the turmoil in the valley and set up manufacturing units in Awantipora, Anantnag, and Pampore.
The self-starter’s unit produces thousands of bats per month which are transported to many Indian states.
Daughter of a coppersmith, Shaheena Akhtar had to give up her dream of higher studies to tackle her family’s financial crisis. Her five siblings are school dropouts, and were job strugglers before she became the family support.
After completing a month-long entrepreneurship training program, she wrote a business proposal and submitted it to Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI).
She wanted to weave Pashmina shawls, besides doing novel embroidery works on them.
Pashmina shawls are made from the soft and fine cashmere wool from the Changthangi goats found in the higher altitudes of Ladakh.
She received a grant of Rs 8.5 lakhs from JKEDI, with which the entrepreneur expanded her business.
Shaheena’s unit also produces Kani shawls — woven with special wooden needles called Kanils in Kashmir. The expensive shawls are made on demand.
Akhtar received the Exemplary Entrepreneurship Award in Handicrafts sector from the then chief minister Omar Abdullah in 2014 for her outstanding work.
Nusrat Jahan Ara
It takes courage to quit a government job in Kashmir and start an enterprise in which no women have entered. Ara is one of those women welcoming risk with a smiling face.
Hailing from Dadoora village of Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Ara was castigated when she decided to quit her ‘secure’ job for the cut-flower profession.
The florist had no investors when she started her business. She started growing flowers in her backyards and selling them. After using all her savings, Ara worked with the vendors on a credit basis and took a loan to convert her idea into reality.
The computer graduate also runs Kashmir Essences, a brand of personal care and home care products under a company called Himalayan Agro Farms.
The brand uses natural Kashmir produce like saffron, almond, cherry, walnut, apple, and other organic products to make organic eatables and beauty products.
These days Mufti Sadia is busy in stitching face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). With her designer resolve, the self-starter has joined the battle against coronavirus.
Sadia started her brand called ‘Hangers and Closet’ in 2014 at the age of 24. A pinch of western style to the traditional Kashmiri wear has been the idea behind the boutique.
But being a trendsetter didn’t come easy for her.
She quitted her human resource manager job in order to become an independent self-starter. She also faced family resistance and drew flak for her career choice.
Sadia, however, never backed out, and worked hard to fulfill her dream and eventually became an inspiration for many in the society.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.