I happened to meet a dynamic lecturer from Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, amidst a group of young girls who had set up a stall at an entrepreneurial set-up in Islamabad. Its all in selfish gain that I go and meet with such groups as youth attracts me, their stories inspire me, guiding them makes me feel fulfilled.
The event was the Women in Business Festival in Islamabad, an exhibition encouraging start-ups to come and showcase their products and services. So whilst I saw some renowned brands there, mostly there were enterprise owners who had just started off on this whirlwind journey of being their own bosses.
Skimming through the 100 plus stalls I saw this beautiful young girl, clad in her veil, her eyes twinkling and welcoming the guests to her stalls. It was a simplistic display of handicrafts she was sourcing from Southern Punjab and also some veils that she had on display.
I asked Sara why is she here. “I am pursuing my bachelors degree and have a year to go but I want to explore the avenues of setting up my own business.” She responded, not a worry in her mind, not with the slightest of vagueness.
This is a young girl from Mardan, rising from the rocks, pushing away the thorns and carving her way out. Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) is considered to be an orthodox province of Pakistan, but that does not mean that it is rigid.
“We have set up our incubation center at Abdul Wali Khan University (AKWU) about a year back and we are in the process of letting our students embark on the entrepreneurial journey. Sarah is the first startup we are incubating and we have one more in the pipeline with the boys. The University attracts students from Swabi, Charsadda, Nowsehra, Mardan, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, Chitral, Northern Punjab, Kohat, Southern parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the extensive Tribal region along the boundaries of the Province. Most of the young students of these areas who have the intellectual capability of receiving higher education can not avail this opportunity due to extreme poverty and this is exactly who the university is catering to.” Detailed Shah Hussain Awan, a management sciences lecturer at the AWKU.
As soon as he made these remarks I wondered, about more than a decade ago when I passed out from one of the leading business schools in the country, our minds were not so broadened to explore opportunities beyond the corporate sphere. What intrigued me was, imagining this young girl Sarah from KP in her 20’s today and then thinking about how she will go places with this support system behind her.
“We suffered a lot this last year but this is not the end. I wanted to bring these young girls here so that they can take this message back and tell others about the world of opportunities that exist for them back home.” Remarked Shah.
Sarah plans on setting up an ecommerce model of her business that she has named Hashtag by S&A. (Business link). Shah continues to strive and support these youngsters however he can.
Sky is the limit. The thought puts a smile on my face. Does it do the same for you?