By Khalida Niaz
PESHAWAR, January 18: Though women are hardly able to get ahead in business activities in Pakhtun society, the case of Mah Gul is the otherwise.
Ms Gul is a household name in Arbab Road locality of the provincial capital. She has also founded the Women Business Development Centre. In order to know how she came to the business and what problems she faced, TNN has interviewed Ms Gul:
TNN: Please tell us when you did you start your business?
Mah Gul: I started my business about 15 years ago when most people would consider women’s business a taboo. I launched a boutique and started collecting beautiful items.
TNN: In our society, women are not encouraged to own businesses. Why did you think about launching a business?
Mah Gul: With consultation of my family, I started business of pants. In those times, no-one knew about block pants in Peshawar. I had collected very beautiful items, including leather made commodities, for the inauguration of my business and even my own family liked that very much. I launched my business after death of my husband.
TNN: Have you faced any financial problems in your business or other issues from people?
Mah Gul: Yes, I have even suffered loss in my business when I started my factory. Business has its profit and loss. But I have not lost courage. Besides working here, I have also displayed my items at a centre near JK Plaza on Arbab Road.
TNN: What about your clientele? How much is your business successful?
Mah Gul: We prepare wedding bed sheets, clothes, handmade wedding suits and other items. I have met many people in weddings and other ceremonies where they told me they were wearing my boutique’s clothing. People from other countries also buy my items and my business is also known in [the federal capital] Islamabad.
TNN: How much hard work a businesswoman needs to do, compared to men in our society?
Mah Gul: Women need to be more hardworking because they can be deceived easily while men know the tricks of the trade.
TNN: What advice do you want to give to women who wish to launch a business?
Mah Gul: There are many businesses, but our business is suitable for women. Even if you make some women work inside their houses to sew clothes and you get a display centre, you can get a good response.
TNN: Do people like handmade items or others?
Mah Gul: Most people like handmade items. Even the foreigners like such things. I used to prepare jaa-e-namaz (prayer mats) through skilled Afghan women, according to a design suggested by my sister. Even the foreigners would like those items. But later that business dampened because the Afghan women left.
TNN: How do you sell the things that you make?
Mah Gul: Besides my display centres at Arbabd Road and others, I also attend exhibitions and display my items there. I develop new contacts at exhibitions and also sell my products.
TNN: When are exhibitions held?
Mah Gul: Such events are organised five or six times each year.
TNN: Is education must for your business? Or can illiterate women also do such a business?
Mah Gul: There are uneducated women who earn more profits than the educated ones. Some are working on salt, others on making chilies powder. They are earning adequate profits through export of their products. We just pray may Allah improve situation in Pakistan.
Translation by Muhammad Shahid