This week You! takes a look at an initiative ‘She Earns’ by Mehwish Abdul Sattar, that provides women - who face challenges in different walks of life - the right platforms and resources to prosper economically...
Women make up almost 50 per cent of Pakistan’s population and there is no denying that they have a strong contribution in every field of work. Though they are the ‘homemakers’ and take care of the needs of their families efficiently, they are equally great when it comes to working outside the confines of a household. Therefore, it would be unfair to ignore their contribution to the economic growth of the country. As Quaid-e-Azam famously said, “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.”
Women make gigantic contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid domestic work. Despite that, women remain majorly affected by poverty, discrimination, prejudice and exploitation. This is due to the fact that they are often stuck with unstable, low-wage jobs and constitute only a small minority of those in leadership roles and key positions. Therefore, their participation in shaping economic and social policies is reduced and that restricts their access to economic assets.
Swearing by this, ‘She Earns’, a platform for women who face challenges in different walks of life, is committed to providing better opportunities to women of all ages and believes that women empowerment is a measure of success for any nation. The team behind the initiative firmly believes that investing in women empowerment sets a precise route towards gender equality, poverty eradication, reproductive rights and inclusive economic growth.
All about the initiative
‘She Earns’ is a dream project of a group of women who faced numerous challenges on their way to growth but stayed determined to not let that discourage them. Having faced difficulties themselves, they aimed to create a platform for other women who are striving to achieve their goals in a patriarchal society like ours. Through the start-up, these women wish to provide opportunities to the emerging, talented ladies who have potential but are not able to fulfil their dreams due to conflicts, socio-economic status and financial constraints.
It aims to build a roadmap for women to strengthen and empower them and this is only achievable by overcoming the gender gap through financial inclusion, investing in girls’ education and working on grass root level. Eventually, it will not only help these women bring positive change in their lives and within their families but can also contribute toward better economy and community.
‘She Earns’ is helmed by Founder and Managing Director Mehwish Abdul Sattar, who is a mother of three. She is a womenpreneur, motivational speaker, social activist, tech addict, global serial entrepreneur, change ambassador and agile enthusiast with over 13 years of experience in IT, consultation, PR and marketing. Not only that, Mehwish has been honoured with multiple prestigious awards given by industry legends, celebrities and former as well as current Prime Minister of Pakistan. She also had the privilege to share the stage with Malala Yousafzai during ‘Azm-e-Alishan’ awards.
In a bid to familiarise press, an event was organised for bloggers and influencers with the idea behind the initiative and their recently held ‘She Earns Women in Economy Expo 2018’, Mehwish candidly spoke to You!...
“I started thinking about ‘She Earns’ two years back and was looking at possibilities to bring it to life. I was in search of a platform that was already working towards a similar goal so that I connect women with them. But those platforms were charging money and women who came to me couldn’t afford to pay. They needed financial support and were only looking for a forum to display their craft and earn money. That’s when I decided to come up with a platform myself where I can practically empower women and provide earning opportunities,” shared Mehwish.
She also spoke about the different areas many organisations and individuals are working on to provide safety to women from violence, harassment, abuse and what not. However, she is of the view that if we only focus on making these women financially self-sufficient, they will be in a better position to save themselves and face the challenge boldly.
“If they are self-sustainable, they can take care of themselves as well as their families, their society and eventually their country,” Mehwish asserted. “They are the women in economy!”
Working towards the marginalised communities
She Earns’ philosophy is entrenched and intertwined with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals on women rights, gender equality, decent work and economic growth; industry innovation and infrastructure; and partnership with organisations aiming to empower women. The major focus of She Earns are women based in marginalised societies, who have the drive, courage, and ideas to potentially earn and learn but lack the opportunities to do so.
This is where it takes up the responsibility to not just open doors to these women but also to eradicate all sorts of discrimination against them (domestic violence, sexual/physical abuse, gender discrimination, etc.). It aims to facilitate women who are home-based entrepreneurs, economically underprivileged, victims of domestic abuse or are entangled in legalities based on draconian laws and practices.
The project has been putting in efforts to multiply opportunities for women who want to be independent and earn a living. They have been actively involved in activities that pave way for progress for these strong women. Towards the end of 2018, they held an exhibition of sorts, called the ‘She Earns Women in Economy Expo 2018’, which took place at PACC in Karachi. It offered free stalls to numerous women who then took active part in the proceedings and put up their work on display for visitors. It not only gave them a platform to showcase their talent but also exposed them to new opportunities for future business and collaborations.
When asked about the idea behind the expo, Mehwish responded, “Our efforts do not end at the exhibition; they begin from here. A day-long event is not enough to financially support these women. We wanted to make them confident and boost their morale through this expo so that they are prepared for their future endeavours. Once they are ready, we will hold workshops and trainings for them on how to behave, deal with potential clients, propose their plans and sell their products in an efficient manner. For me, women working from home and setting up their small businesses are the real start-ups that will eventually play a key role in the country’s economic structure but have limited resources at the moment. If we give them the right exposure and introduce them to international trade and export, it will not only help them grow but will have a strong influence on the country’s trade and business.”
Two cents of the armed women
Women who displayed at the expo or those who attended it have only good things to say about the initiative.
“The effort is mind blowing for women empowerment. Event was very good, footfall was also very good and I am happy to be a part of this event,” told Ayesha Tabish of the Gulmor Collection. Similarly, Irma Wahid Khan who sells organic products by the name of Irma’s Herbal & Organic Products shared her experience, “It was a really a big day! Salute to the team for supporting women in economy and promoting goods that are ‘made in Pakistan’. It was a wonderful experience and encouragement to be surrounded with great people for women empowerment.” Mirroring the thoughts, Tooba Aamir, an attendee of the event added, “It is a great initiative and much needed in our society. I loved the entire team and their dedication towards their work.” On the other hand, Naghmana Rao of Rafiaz Home Decor concluded by saying, “She Earns is a great platform for women entrepreneurs to earn by doing what they do best. We are all grateful to the team for providing us with such great platform. They organised a very well planned exhibition for home-based women entrepreneurs to showcase their skills and display their work publically that introduced us to new opportunities professionally.”
Initiatives like ‘She Earns’ are just the beginning towards a more progressive and an inclusive society in terms of financial independence especially for women. Any society that ignores the contributions of half of its population is not living up to its potential. As US Counsul General JoAnne Wagner puts it, “When women are fore players in a society or in a community, the entire society and community benefits. I have seen here in Pakistan women have tremendous enthusiasm and I strongly encourage them to continue to take their power and contribute to their country.”