Entrepreneur Tawheeda Akthar is the wind beneath the wings of unskilled Kashmiri women
Armed with a sewing machine, Tawheeda Akthar, who grew up in abject poverty, went on to become a successful entrepreneur. Now, she is the wind beneath several unskilled women’s wings.
With her father doing menial jobs for a living, money was always tight in the Akthar household, so much so that she could only study till Class 12. However, she had a burning desire to do something for her family and siblings. “My father was a labourer and couldn’t afford to educate me. However, I refused to sit idle at home and enrolled myself at the Bemina Industrial Training Institute (ITI) where I learnt how to sew and stitch clothes. I worked hard and graduated at the top of my class, which gave me the confidence to do new things in life,” says the 30-year-old.
However, her journey was not smooth sailing, “At times, I did not even have enough money to cover the bus fare. However, the tough times only motivated me to work harder to fulfill my dream of giving my siblings a decent education.”
Won her first sewing machine
Akthar has three elder brothers and a younger sister. Her first break came when she participated in a competition organised by the Zainab Institute, Maisuma. “I won the contest and received a brand new sewing machine as the prize, which changed my life. I honed my skills on the machine and started earning well.”
Akthar set up a small boutique, which is now a successful venture, which provides employment to around 12 women. However, just earning well for herself and her family was not enough, and she decided to empower women who came from a humble background and opened a training centre at Lawaypora.
Has trained 1,150 girls
“There are 12 workers in my boutique. I teach them sewing and mehandi art. I have trained more than 1,150 girls and charge a meagre sum from them. I do not charge anything from those who are very poor or orphans,” says Akthar, who also runs a society, Shining Star, through which she provides free training to women at her boutique or at the ITI. “Recently, I arranged a three-month free fashion designing course for 80 girls and a one-year ITI course for 15 girls and three boys.”
Akthar’s inspiration is her maternal uncle, Nazir Ahmad Rather, who always encouraged her. “After sewing, I learnt embroidery work, knitting and aari work. I always tell my students that learning a skill will help them be gainfully employed, which will boost their confidence and make their lives more comfortable.”