Daughter Sgr Tawhida succeeds with a sewing machine
There are many inspiring stories of women in Kashmir who fought against social and cultural obstacles to bring about significant social and economic reforms in their communities. Among them is Tawhida Akthar, 31, from the Gund Hasi Bhat area of Lawaypora, on the outskirts of Srinagar, where she was born and raised in a low-income family.
She was the eldest in her family. Their father being a worker, it was difficult for him to manage the family expenses and the studies of his children. Tawhida received her early education at a nearby government school and later passed her 12th class exam at a government senior secondary school.
She was unable to continue her education due to financial constraints. She joined the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) Bemina and was enrolled in sewing technology and got the first post and learned the art of sewing and cutting.
“It was very difficult for me to continue my studies. My father was a worker and did not have the means to give me higher education. I encountered many difficulties. I was interested in making myself skillful. There was a time when I didn’t even have a bus ticket. But I didn’t give up and besides, I wanted my other siblings to continue their education,” she said.
“My vision is very clear. I want to be a strong support system for my dad. Without passion you have no energy, and without energy you have nothing,” she said.
Since childhood, Tawhida was inclined towards craftsmanship. After sewing, she learned embroidery work, knitting, aari work and mehandi design.
She was 14 when she started to learn crafts and continue her studies. Tawhida wanted to become an independent and financially independent woman and the challenges motivated her more.
In 2014, Tawhida participated in a competition organized by the Zainabia Institute in Maisuma Srinagar where she got the first position and received a sewing machine.
“It became a turning point in my life. I found in the sewing machine the opportunity to create my own little shop at home. It helped me think outside the box about my issues, which has changed my life,” she said.
She started her shop with a sewing machine and turned it into an ITI center. For her, simply winning for herself was not the only motive. She wanted to empower women and opened the “Shining Star Boutique” training center. Later, she managed to bring back four used sewing machines.
At the center, she trained several unqualified women. She has so far trained 1,200 girls in sewing for free. “Most of them run their own shops,” she said.
The 31-year-old has also trained some 300 boys who also earn a living.
“It was a long journey that was very difficult. Today I can say that I am not only a successful entrepreneur, but that I continue to improve my skills to meet new challenges,” she said .
Tawhida’s shop, a successful business, employs 12 women. She also runs the Shining Star Society (NGO) through which she provides free training to women.
In 2021, the NGO and its team sewed costumes for fire victims in Parimpora where 60 houses were gutted in a devastating fire that affected more than a hundred families.
“I don’t charge anything to the poor or orphans. Recently, I organized a free three-month fashion design course for 80 girls and a one-year ITI course for 15 girls and three boys,” she said.
Tawhida’s inspiration is her maternal uncle who always encouraged her, boosted her confidence and was always there when she needed him most.
“I always tell my students that learning a skill will help them get a job, which will boost their confidence and improve their lives,” she said.
Tawhida is also very active on social media where she uploads videos related to sewing and cutting training for women who cannot connect with her centre.
“I promote many courses on my YouTube channel where students learn at home and contact me for details,” she said.
Awards and Honors
On March 07, 2022, she received the Woman Entrepreneur Trophy from the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Narayan Tatu Rane.
Tawhida was also congratulated on International Women’s Day 2021 by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha in the presence of Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Pandurang K. Pole.
During Covid-19, she received an appreciation award at a reception at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Center (SKICC).
Tawhida also received the Emerging Women Entrepreneur Award in New Delhi on this year’s International Women’s Day.