Empowered women and powerful ideas

Published: March 24, 2014
Mahnoush celebrates 5th anniversary with five
incredible Pakistani women.

Mahnoush celebrates 5th anniversary with five incredible Pakistani women.


Arjumand Amin, fashion entrepreneur and head designer at Mahnoush, thought it fitting to celebrate five formidable Pakistani women on the fifth anniversary of her label. “Celebrating these women was my way of paying homage to what these Pakistani heroes have achieved. I relate to them, albeit on a tiny level, as I launched my lawn and faced many difficulties along the way,” says Amin. “I admire them all unequivocally. Their real achievement is that they have done all this while staying so warm and accessible, without the least trace of hubris.”

The label Mahnoush represents a number of attributes beauty, spirit, empowerment, ambition and passion. Here are the five women that Amin feels embody these qualities and represent Pakistan in the best light — master couturier Bunto Kazmi, the fearless filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, artist-extraordinaire Shahzia Sikander, dynamic social entrepreneur Roshaneh Zafar and leading athlete and sporting entrepreneur Naseem Hameed.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy


Fearless Film-maker

Amin says that Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy was chosen for bringing worldwide fame for Pakistan as the recipient of both an Oscar and an Emmy, and highlighting the plight of the less fortunate through her critically acclaimed work.

The first non-American to win the Livingstone Award for young journalists, Chinoy was conferred the Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan and was also included in Time magazine’s 2012 annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

“Mahnoush has chosen to celebrate Pakistani women who are passionate and dynamic and who represent the best of Pakistan, and that speaks volumes about the brand and its vision. Women in Pakistan are spirited and ambitious and I support a brand that looks to embrace and espouse these values.”

“I am honoured to be celebrated in such auspicious company. I feel the brand is authentically connected with people instead of on a surface level by shining a light on women who have defied the odds and succeeded,” adds Chinoy.

“It’s no secret that I have always had an ambitious spirit and I’ve always been passionate about the empowerment of women and communities. I always endeavour that my work as a filmmaker and a voice for Pakistan embodies the very ethos of passion, empowerment, truth and spirit.”

Bunto Kazmi


Master couturier

Bunto Kazmi was chosen for the way she has reached the pinnacle of her career with her customary grace, according to Amin.

She creates not just beautiful clothes, but works of art, heirlooms to be passed on from one generation to the next. With intricate workmanship and motifs that ultimately save the best of our sartorial traditions for coming generations, she is a living legend.

 “I feel extremely humbled to be celebrated as one of Pakistan’s most formidable women,” says Kazmi. “I think I embody passion the most, as I have always gone the extra mile to fulfil my work commitments, and ensure that each outfit is a labour of love,” she adds.

Shahzia Sikander


Artist extraordinaire

Shahzia Sikander was chosen for her immense achievements in the international art scene, according to Amin.

She is responsible for re-inventing miniature painting as practised in Pakistan today. Her multimedia work in video, animation, mural and installation has pioneered a new discourse in the arts by bringing contemporary miniature painting into the international arena. She was recently awarded the MacArthur Genius Award and is currently working on a new project commissioned by the Samdani Foundation, Dhaka.

“I am proud to be a Pakistani Woman and to be celebrated in the company of other women I admire and respect. For me, art is not just an impulse to make aesthetically pleasing objects.  It has been an instinct to think and imagine the future. Ideas are a powerful entity. In re-imagining lies the ability to break moulds and re-examine the norms,” says Sikander.

“Creativity is genius and the more we strengthen and build cohesion in the creative capital drawn from the diverse communities of our great nation, the better we will be to address our current and future challenges,” she adds.

Naseem Hameed


Athlete and sporting entrepreneur

Naseem was chosen by Amin not just for getting a gold medal in the SAF games, but for setting up an academy to train young sportsmen and sportswomen.

“It’s a great honour for me that I was selected as one of these five women being celebrated, and being part of the campaign with the likes of Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Bunto Kazmi, who have promoted the positive image of Pakistan in the world,” says Naseem.

“I believe my spirit, passion and ambition are reflected in everything I’ve done and hopefully in all that I will do as an athlete and as an entrepreneur,” she adds.

Roshaneh Zafar


Social entrepreneur /founder Kashf Foundation

Amin says that Roshaneh Zafar was chosen for the wonderful work she has done for bettering the lives of thousands through micro-finance opportunities.

She is renowned for her pioneering work in helping women in lower-income groups achieve economic parity. The Kashf Foundation has disbursed over 2.2 million loans and redirected the lives of thousands of households.

“For me, this is about upholding Pakistan’s traditions of art and design. It’s about combining the classic woman with modernity and about promoting one of Pakistan’s most vibrant industries  — textiles. At one level it’s also about being a supporter of women led businesses, which Mahnoush as a brand represents,” says Zafar.

“I am sure there are many other women who deserve this title, especially the low-income women entrepreneurs who I work with, who are truly formidable. I have deep respect for the women of Pakistan who despite all the challenges they face are able to realize their dreams. I hope being part of this campaign will encourage other women to excel in other fields,” she adds.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Pappu
    Mar 24, 2014 - 8:44PM

    Truly empowering woman – Naseem Hameed.

    Kashf foundation – Can someone help me understand its financials? They have a loan portfolio of Rs. 2.5bn and the annual interest (called Servicing and other charges) of Rs. 819m.

    That is a staggering 33% interest on loans! I must be missing something?! :s I mean its a normal percentage of a financial institution given the credit risk but Kashf is a charity supposed to alleviate poverty.


  • Asif
    Mar 24, 2014 - 9:08PM

    @Pappu: wrong. Kashf is a business, a bank in fact, albeit with a more social sector-oriented approach. It’s target group is women from the lowest income bracket. Without interest on loans, there is NO incentive for the loan to be paid back and therefore, no failsafe mechanism. No business can run without contingencies and some kind of assured returns.


  • Rao Amjad Ali
    Mar 24, 2014 - 9:11PM


    The sheer volume of administering small micro-lines of credit necessitates apportioning a relatively large sum to cover the cost of maintaining and processing unsecured loans. Thus, not only Kashf but most microcredit institutions worldwide have to charge a high rate of interest, including Grameen (Bangladesh) and Khushali (Pakistan).


  • basit
    Mar 24, 2014 - 9:31PM

    Its a pity you guys comment without having any minute knowledge of microfinance. I would suggest to go and understand the model. Micro finance institutions by any mean are not charitable but they are non profit organization and since its labor intensive, it has a high admin cost. details can found on internet via google.


  • Afridi
    Mar 25, 2014 - 3:17AM

    Some incredible women there! Great concept by Mahnoush


  • Truther
    Mar 25, 2014 - 11:04AM

    and we would never be told by media that how these “empowered women” terat their maids and other women workers


  • Selina
    Mar 25, 2014 - 1:57PM

    Kashf is a micro finance institution that deliberately confuses its work as benefiting women simply because it gives loans to women. Most of such loans are used by the household and male members who are actually using their women to get the loans. So where is women’s empowerment? They are simply channels to get the money. Also, low income does not necessarily mean poor. Most such households have several sources of income and can pay back the loan. So where is the poverty alleviation? Kashf deserves as much credit for developemt work as a shoe factory producing low proced shoes for women.Recommend

  • Saad
    Mar 25, 2014 - 2:46PM

    Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Please stop making stupid assumptions about people and open your mind up, it needs some air.


  • Pappu
    Mar 26, 2014 - 6:44PM

    I called it a charity because it has a big DONATE button on its website. That’s all. Recommend

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