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Emblems of Empowerment | Weaving her own destiny, the eco-friendly way

Part 18: Married off at a young age, Syed Tabasum did not resign to her fate. When her younger daughter’s illness brought upon financial troubles for her family, Tabasum decided to take matters in her own hands. Starting out as a handicraft instructor, she now runs a textile unit that has an annual turnover of around ₹22 lakhs.
Syed Tabasum, who is one of the leading eco-friendly entrepreneurs in Kashmir valley, says women need to take matters into their own hands to empower themselves, their families and other women. (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Sep 26, 2021 03:50 AM IST
By Ashiq Hussain, Srinagar

Owing to her father’s heart ailment, Syed Tabasum had to get married immediately after completing higher secondary school in 2003.

Within five years of marriage, the couple had two children. They would have retired to a quiet family life had it not been for their younger daughter’s illness.

“My husband is a government employee but we were still struggling to meet our daughter’s treatment costs,” she reveals, adding that it was then that she decided to take matters in her own hands. She enrolled herself in a polytechnic course and picked up several skills, including fabrication of garments, canvas paintings and knot-making.

After the course, she started working as an instructor in the handicrafts department and trained girls in making jute accessories.

But the poor working conditions, which included salary delays and frequent travels to far-off places, put her off. She decided that instead of resigning to fate, she would set up her own unit.

In March 2014, she sold her jewellery and set up a jute manufacturing unit in Jawahar Nagar of Srinagar. Her family members were against the decision, but she persisted.

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As fate would have it, she suffered another setback. The devastating flood of September 2014 washed away all her assets.

“I lost around 35 lakh in the flood. I neither had registration nor insurance. So I lost everything -- machines, boutique, bridal suits and raw materials,” says the woman with a never-give-up attitude, who was back on her foot the next year.

“In 2015, I started again. I took loan from the department of industries and commerce and re-established the jute unit,” she reveals.

In 2016, she set up another unit dealing in Kashmiri embroidery, particularly Sozni, which provides employment to around 200 girls, many of them orphans.

Now in her 40s, Tabasum has emerged as a prominent eco-friendly entrepreneur in the Valley. She was awarded the best entrepreneur award in 2019 by the government of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University also presented me with a leadership award after they saw my work during an international conference,” she says.

Her textile-manufacturing unit mostly produces jute and leather products, including shopping bags, executive bags, conference bags and folders. She supplies it to universities, colleges and government departments, not just in Valley but also to Lucknow. The unit has an annual turnover of around 20-22 lakhs.

After the pandemic outbreak, Tabasum’s unit supplied nearly 2.5 lakh masks and PPE kits to the administration.

Tabasum says that those who discouraged her when she was first setting out on her journey of entrepreneurship, are now all praises for her.

“Back then, everyone asked me why I was stepping out for work when I have two young children to take care of. Now, they come to me for business advice,” she says happily.

Her advice to other women looking to change the course of their destiny: “Change won’t come until we take matters into our own hands.”

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