Shehnaz Basit Ikram
An advocate of women’s empowerment and with a successful career in textiles for almost 2.5 decades, Shehnaz Basit Ikram, the COO at Gul Ahmed, is a source of sheer inspiration for women in Pakistan. She began her journey right after her graduation from the National College of Arts in Lahore and has been with Gul Ahmed since then. “When I started at Gul Ahmed, I wanted to bring about a change in the history of the textile industry in Pakistan. 25 years down this road, I am very glad and satisfied about the fact that we were the spinners of the change that has allowed our textile industry to reach this level of recognition and respect today,” says Shehnaz. “The textile industry is big, we dictate fashion patterns as the seasons change. New technology helps a great deal and female textile designers are in demand. I am very proud to be a part of this industry and its’ achievements.” The vivacious Shehnaz is, of course, very happy with where she is at this point in her life and the dreams that she had as a college student have all been realised through her hard work.
Thanks to the support of her family, Shehnaz was able to put up a brave front before the ups and downs of life. “Everyone was very supportive, from my father to my mother to my husband and children. It is because of them that I was able to pull off the dual roles of a mother and a career woman,” Shehnaz recollects. She has a lot of respect for all the female staff working under her and says “they have it harder. Their shift starts much earlier. In the morning, they send off their children to school and bring their own meals to last them through the working hours. When they go back, they have their home duties to fulfil. I am privileged and realise that even more when I see them. I love to be their mentor and encourage them to pursue their dreams. We support them in every way we can, whether it is the provision of day care facilities or taking care of their safety and working environment.” Shehnaz advises women to step out into the workforce since it is the need of the hour. A woman’s income can contribute to the education of her children. At work, a woman also learns management skills which further help her in life, allowing her to be a better spouse and mother. “When she understands the problems her husband faces at work, she is able to create a better marital relationship. She can also warn her children about the demands and hardships of life and prepare them,” explains Shehnaz.
Shehnaz believes that she owes all her achievements to her mother. “She was widowed at a very young age and she is the reason behind all her children’s successes.” She taught Shehnaz how to be strong and manage her time. When looking back, she cannot recall even a single moment of weakness professionally. “Every day in the morning I am excited to go to work and do lots of things. I manage my routine - exercise, family, children, husband and my mother. If you are determined, everything becomes easy. I have had struggles in life but I have learnt how to deal with them and emerge victorious.”
Shehnaz Basit Ikram has had plenty of Miracle Moments and exclaims that they keep coming. “This is also a Miracle Moment, giving my first interview ever and being one of the 100 Ponds Miracle Women for 2016,” she says with a smile. “Each achievement has brought a lot of fulfilment.” She is candid, she is smart and she knows she can do it. She is someone who looks at each challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink! And that is exactly why she is a Miracle Woman.