Spearheaded by women

By Wallia Khairi
Tue, 11, 23

This week You! is celebrating the work of few women entrepreneurs who are in business to develop opportunities for other women too…

Women entrepreneurship (WE) and women empowerment play an important part in the socioeconomic growth of all developing nations, including Pakistan, in today’s competitive world. Women, constituting approximately 48 per cent of Pakistan’s total population, are regrettably underrepresented in the workforce, with female employment participation standing at a mere 19-20 per cent. This disparity underscores the substantial untapped potential for women’s empowerment and their active engagement in diverse sectors, including manufacturing such as garments (for children and women), traditional leather products (clothing and footwear), home textiles, and various services. While talent and knowledge are universally distributed, the opportunities to nurture and harness women are not evenly distributed. Nevertheless, this reality takes on a fresh perspective when female entrepreneurs choose to embrace their business models and the broad societal and economic impact they bring.

On November 19, we commemorate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, an occasion spearheaded by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization to honour and bolster women in the world of business. Women’s Entrepreneurship Day serves as a moment to recognise, support, and celebrate the remarkable contributions made by women entrepreneurs and business leaders to foster economic growth and enhance the well-being of society. Instituted by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization, this day is observed in more than 144 countries globally.

Considering the economic challenges faced by Pakistan, there exists an urgent imperative to economically empower women and establish avenues for employment and income generation. These initiatives are vital for women’s resilience, prosperity, and their ability to provide for their families. To unlock the latent potential of women-to-women business ventures, women entrepreneurs require comprehensive support encompassing strategic business development training, access to credit resources, and assistance in honing their marketing skills, as well as product design and development. This week You! takes a look at the inspiring journeys of few successful and emerging female entrepreneurs…

The Beekeeper

Nausheen Barkat, the owner of first and only women led honey brand in Pakistan, is a dynamic young entrepreneur hailing from Karachi, Pakistan. Her business, ‘Asqurr,’ is an organic honey brand that not only emphasises the production of high-quality honey but also places a strong focus on empowering women and contributing to a sustainable ecosystem through responsible bee farming practices. Her vision is to harness natural resources as a means to elevate the financial status of women and to promote and empower women in non-traditional sectors, such as honey beekeeping.

Spearheaded by women

‘Asqurr’ has successfully forged collaborations with various entities, including the government of Gilgit Baltistan, the Agriculture Department, and TIKA, a Turkish Agency dedicated to modern beekeeping training. One of their significant achievements has been the establishment of the first-ever women beekeeper’s association, a crucial step towards the empowerment of women beekeepers in the region.

Nausheen envisions the creation of the first Honey Hub in Gilgit Baltistan, which will be closely linked with the Tourism department. This hub aims to offer tourists a unique opportunity to witness live honey extraction and gain insights into the fascinating world of honey bees. Additionally, it will serve as a state-of-the-art training centre for beekeepers, complete with a laboratory to facilitate local beekeepers in testing and improving the quality of honey production. Nausheen’s endeavours reflect her commitment to women’s empowerment and the promotion of sustainable bee farming practices in the region.

Designing her own path

Purnia Farrukh primarily specialises in crafting design solutions for logos, businesses, and brand identities, all of which are deeply influenced by the architectural design of the companies she collaborates with. “I frequently find myself blurring the boundaries between the disciplines of architecture and graphic design,” explains Purnia, an enthusiastic and unconventional Product Designer whose work has earned acclaim for its abstract, formal clarity, and minimalist designs.

Spearheaded by women

“Based in Karachi, I started Itereight in 2020 as an experiment and it immediately turned into my full-time job. Itereight is a unique domain name derived from the mathematical function, Iterate. It’s my take on design and function and how I approach and design problems,” she reveals. Simultaneously, she is engaged in enhancing the interior designs of businesses to align seamlessly with their brand identity.

She only aims to take her business further and beyond from here. “I’ve been very lucky to be in the centre of changing times in Karachi, Pakistan, where there are so many able creative and strong women bringing change, doing good work and starting new businesses that I feel extremely lucky to be a part of the spate,” she shares.

Bridging the gap

Sadaf Mateen is a dedicated Speech-Language Pathologist with a special focus on children. She is the co-founder of ‘The Circle: Caring for Children,’ a cutting-edge hospital established in February 2014 with a mission to provide comprehensive, high-quality care to children dealing with conditions such as Autism, Speech, Language and Hearing Impairment, and various developmental and communication disorders.

Spearheaded by women

Hailing from the heart of Karachi, Sadaf’s journey into the world of speech therapy began when her own son was born with profound hearing loss. This experience led Sadaf to a profound realisation — there were numerous other children in need of similar services. She recognised the scarcity of speech therapists in the country and took it upon herself to fill this gap. Motivated by this realisation, she embarked on a journey of education, diligently studying and completing her training in the field of speech-language pathology and audiology. Being a strong proponent of women empowerment Sadaf opines, “I advocate women being financially and economically independent. Economic independence gives a lot of benefits to a woman; she gains self-respect, she can help her family during trying times. But that does not mean that these women are better than those who are not economically independent. We should facilitate them as well. I encourage all girls to be contributing, intelligent members of society.”

Through her unwavering dedication and expertise, Sadaf has been making a significant impact by providing essential care for children with special needs, thereby transforming the lives of many families in need.

A journey of self-discovery

In 2021, Hareem Fatima Zafar launched her venture ‘Hair & Locs’ with a single variant. Today, her product line has expanded to include two more options: a hair strengthening oil, which is a blend of seven organic oils designed to enhance hair strength and fullness, and their highly popular oil serum - packed with potent, all-organic ingredients that not only improve scalp health but also repair, nourish, rejuvenate existing hair, and stimulate new hair growth.

Spearheaded by women

Around two years ago, Hareem found herself grappling with severe hair loss due to a combination of factors, primarily stress from personal challenges. Amid pursuing her MBA and experiencing a personal trauma, her mental and physical health were significantly affected, leading to an alarming and distressing phase of extreme hair fall. Desperate for a solution, she tried various vitamins and home remedies, but nothing seemed to work.

However, a few months before her wedding, Hareem decided to take matters into her own hands. She conducted research and concocted a special hair growth elixir by mixing different oils such as: Coconut oil, which helped repair damage and dullness, and her hair fall significantly reduced after a few uses; Castor oil contributed to growth and length, making her hair thicker and more voluminous; Vitamin E added shine and volume, restoring the natural health of her hair. Encouraged by the visible results, she decided to make her homemade oil available to others facing similar hair issues.

With an ever-growing base of satisfied customers and an abundance of positive reviews, Hareem’s hair serum has gained a strong reputation for its effectiveness.

The mad hatter

Samina Riaz has always had a deep passion for baking and cooking which led her to opening her own brand ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’. Samina also attended a culinary/pastry school, where her inclination towards baking grew stronger. Her dedication and enthusiasm for baking didn’t go unnoticed, leading to a scholarship from her culinary school. Simultaneously, she secured a job at a well-known restaurant, where she worked as a baker in the pastry lab. However, her journey took an unexpected turn when the head chef arrived for training. Unfortunately, the head chef proved to be extremely unpleasant and, upon discovering that Samina was epileptic after ten days of work, terminated her employment.

Spearheaded by women

Undeterred, Samina embraced the opportunity presented by her culinary scholarship. At an event organised by the British Council, she showcased her baking skills by creating 65 biscuits with various flavours. This event marked the birth of her brand, Initially, she started with just four items: chocolate mousse, chicken cheese bread rolls, assorted biscuits, and a coffee cake. Over time, her business expanded to include a range of brownies, cupcakes, and savoury offerings.

Today, with nearly three years in the business, Samina’s brand, Mad Hatters Tea Party, has received an overwhelmingly positive response. She recently participated as the brownie vendor at popular spot in the vicinity of Tipu Sultan, Karachi, and is hopeful for more exciting opportunities in the future.

The writer is a reporter and subeditor at You! Magazine, The News International. She can be reached at