: Among the six siblings, she was only one who didn’t severe her educational ties until a mounting financial crisis at home forced her to choose business over books. Bilal Handoo details the struggling success of a city girl who plunged into men dominating field and ended up clinching gold
At school, she had learnt: Great sacrifices bring great rewards. The lesson taught by her teacher took its time to seep in. But when she sacrificed her doctorate degree (her dream) for supporting her financially-crippled family, the meaning of the lesson became loud and clear. After distancing herself from studies, she plunged into Pashmina making. And eight years after her sacrifice, her rewards are quite visible: her home-grown Pashmina shawls have today became rage in Rome.
Being a daughter of a coppersmith, Shaheena Akhtar, 32, from Nowshera Srinagar had seen the worst patch of life. The only graduate among her six siblings, she had seen how poverty forced her siblings to discontinue their education. To support the family, her brothers had started earning at a young age by weaving shawls on meagre wages. But Shaheena continued her education and completed her graduation in 2004. Once out of college, she wanted to start her own business, as frequent financial blues of her family didn’t encourage her to study further. But she had no idea that her future lies only in handicrafts.
During a training programme on self-employment at Kashmir University in 2006 she was encouraged by her trainer to start a handicrafts unit. Later she availed Rs 1 lakh loan from Jammu and Kashmir Handicrafts Department which helped her to start Shaheen Handicrafts in early 2007. With two workers, she started working on the handloom herself to weave shawls. It was the time when Shaheena was neither having any bank accounts nor any idea of running business.
Being a girl in men dominating field was itself a big challenge. She perceived a change in her relatives’ behaviour towards her. “But I never mind that changed behaviour,” she says. “For me, to support my family was more meaningful and important than anything else.” Defying all prevailing notions, she kept building the base of her business with her dauntless efforts. But while her efforts were piling up, at the same time, her finances weren’t pooling in. And this was slowly brewing a sense of discontentment in her.