Farah A Shaikh
Farah Shaikh had worked in the Netherlands for sixteen years before moving to Pakistan. It was her personal circumstances that brought her to Pakistan but that didn’t stop her from starting her career afresh with a bang. She has been in Pakistan for four years now and already has several luxury homes in the city to her credit. To top that she is currently working on the second talent project of the city which will be a pair of twin towers housing luxury apartments. She is working on projects like universities, hospitals, and mosques in the rest of the country as well.
The biggest challenge Farah has faced since moving back has been to assert her position as a competent female architect. “In the Netherlands everybody is equal. The fact that you are a woman never even comes up. Here, however, architecture is dominated by men and it takes time for clients to accept your competence, especially with high rise projects.” There are several hurdles to cross in the logistical aspect of the work as well. Lack of materials and skilled labour means that the translation of a dream project from paper to land is very difficult. Farah talks about the difference in approach she feels between Holland and Pakistan by saying “Amsterdam has some of the best architects in the world. Over there everybody works for the sake of the profession because they just want to create beautiful things. In Holland I could design absolutely anything and there would be a way to bring it to life. That is not the case in Pakistan.”
Farah brings her own unique flavor to her designs. Being a fan of eco-architecture she has taken up some urban projects that consist of sustainable and eco-friendly elements. “I feel that there are no trees in the city so we are designing new projects in Karachi and Islamabad that have a lot of green architecture.”
Farah recalls how she was a completely devoted mother to her son and then her circumstances forced her to leave him in The Netherlands when he was just twelve and move to Pakistan. “I can’t change the circumstances of my life. I couldn’t have stopped my ex-husband from leaving. If I could tell my younger self to do something differently, I would tell her to be a lot stronger and believe in herself because people forget how amazing they are. Each person is a miracle and there are so many things they can do. We are assets to any place we get to. The potential of a human being is endless. We don’t tap into it and we don’t believe in ourselves.”
She continues how financial independence enabled her to overcome several challenges. “I think money is one of the most important things for any woman to have. It gives her complete independence. Because then every other factor in her life; her husband, her home, her children are there because of love. You’re not staying together because of money. You can make your own decisions and create your own life. Imagine all the possibilities.”
Farah urges women to put themselves first. If women don’t take care of themselves, their health, their priorities, then they will not be in a position to be good caregivers. Farah draws her strength from focusing on her wellbeing and that truly makes her a Miracle Woman.