SEEMA AZIZ: “I DON’T CALL IT CHARITY WORK. IT’S NATION

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WE SPEAK TO PHILANTHROPIST AND BUSINESSWOMAN ABOUT BAREEZE, LOAD SHEDDING, AND WHY SHE’S NOT A FEMINIST

We speak to Philanthropist and businesswoman about Bareeze, load shedding, and why she’s not a feminist

Tell us about your career path. How did you go from running your family’s textile company, SEFAM, to establishing CARE?
SEFAM and CARE are two different things altogether. SEFAM is [our] family business and CARE is [my] passion. [The idea for] CARE came out of the floods. Many years ago, I went to some flood affected areas that were hit quite badly. There I realized that such floods might come next or a year after that. Essentially there was no way to stop the flooding, but we could help people prepare. What we need to do is educate and create awareness among the masses. They would be able to help themselves better if they know what is going on and that demanded education. CARE was thus formed to empower through education.

What were some hurdles you faced at the advent?
When the first Bareeze store was opened it was manned by our own trained staff – staff who knew the quality of the product. In those days quality was quite uncommon in Pakistan because different stuff was bought, sold and smuggled throughout the country. Bareeze was the first Pakistani brand, and the only initial hurdle that we faced was to accustom the people to the feel of quality.

What are the pros and cons of working in a family business?
It’s great when working with family as you share a common vision and goals. I enjoy working with family.

What are you working on currently?
Bareeze is coming up with new designs for the Eid Collection. We are also are working tirelessly for the CARE Zakat Campaign. CARE Foundation already has about 160,000 students in 234 schools. We have about 70,000 graduates and a Higher Education Scholarship Program where we give out scholarships to 800 students every year. We hope to educate one million children by the end of 2018. It’s a big dream and so we are reaching out to everyone to contribute to the efforts made by CARE Foundation in spreading education.

Some say charity work can deaden rather than awaken the consciousness. Is it tough to draw the boundary when you feel emotionally involved in cases? Have you ever found it tough to drop work at the door when you enter your home?
I don’t call it charity work. It’s nation building – adding value to our community, creating shared values, and working together to create prosperity for all. For me, the word charity has a concept of being looked down upon and in my heart it does not exist. We are doing things that will empower people to stand on their own feet. That’s why education, giving people jobs, creating employment, making people stand on their own feet tomorrow, that’s what CARE does. All work we do is empowering people so they stand tomorrow. Nation building becomes a part of your brain. For me, all this work is positive and is never a burden. It’s a joy and comes from the heart.

How has the political instability affected your business?
Political instability and government policies have affected all business. Strikes, load shedding etc. have seriously affected both people and businesses.

Would you say you’re a feminist?
No, not at all. I believe in equality for all. I am gender non-sensitive.

Are the glass ceilings being broken when it comes to Female emancipation in Pakistan or do we have a long way to go?
Glass ceilings are broken partly by individual concern. It is really Female emancipation – where we will break through ceilings – when we believe we can do it. We are moving towards this and women are moving forward in all spheres of our society. The numbers are small for now but we are moving forward.

What are some success stories that have stayed with you?
There are so many success stories. Especially stories about our amazing graduates doing so well, becoming doctors and excelling in their professions. Children who come from families with financial constraints and no facilities, when they become so successful and outdo themselves, it’s our biggest success.

Any plans to expand?
Yes, absolutely. As far as CARE is concerned we want to reach each and every child. No country will progress if we don’t prioritize education. As for business we have to grow absolutely, expand and grow till we are everywhere in Pakistan and also have a big presence abroad as a Pakistani brand. We have launched a number of new brands over the years too.

What is one thing you love about living in Lahore?
Everything! This is where everything is – friends, family, home and happiness.

Has your gender ever been an obstacle in the industry? Does it have its perks?
I don’t know if there are any perks. Equal amount of hard work is required and no matter who and where you are.

What is something that has surprised you in this industry?
What surprised me is that for a long time no body looked at the potential for growth in the embroidery industry and now it’s flourishing.

What is some advice you’d give to a novice in your profession?
Go for it and follow your heart. What you dare to do is what you will achieve. Dare to dream and dare to achieve your dream.

What does it mean to be Pakistani for you?
It means to have a home and identity. It’s who I am.

How did you balance your personal life with your demanding work schedule?
Life is all about time management. If you manage your time right, you can manage a lot.  It’s all about knowing your priorities and planning everything.

When you’re not working, you are..
I’m a mother, daughter, wife, sister and a friend. It’s a busy life. 

LIFE STYLE:
Favorite vacation spot: Nathia Gali
What makes you impatient? Anything that is slow
Addicted to: Fun
Brain or brawn: Brain
Love or money: Both

FASHION:
You hate it when you see people wearing: Weird colors and clothes that are not right for their age

AT HOME:
Book you’re currently reading:  Fashion in the 18th and 19th  Century
Most typically Pakistani thing about you: Shalwar kameez
Favorite piece of furniture in your home? Couch

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