Founder: Expression Boutique
President: Association of Women Entrepreneur, AWE.
By: Mohammad Mohiuddin Moin
The Pages: You are a successful business person, an entrepreneur. How did you come up with the concept of AWE?
Hafiza Momtaz Hashi: Since childhood, I have grown up seeing my mom doing a lot of social works. She had two associations of her own. This was roughly after the liberation war phase. The country was in despair, and that is when my mother took up the initiative to stand beside a lot of women in Chottogram. She used to empower women by giving them tailoring jobs. And that’s not where she stopped, she carried out the painstaking process of making their products sellable, and thus facilitated them to lead balanced family lives. My father was also into the practice of doing social works besides his business, and he supported my mother a lot. That is from where I started getting inspired in social works. I have been affiliated with several business organizations for women from the very beginning, but such organizations are usually more focused on working with established entrepreneurs. I was more interested in working with the new-comers. With this vision in mind, AWE was founded.
The Pages: You have found your inspiration for doing entrepreneurial and social works from your family. So how important do you think it is to get support from one’s family for becoming a woman entrepreneur?
Hafiza Momtaz Hashi: This is the first requirement for bringing a woman entrepreneur into existence. A lot of women aren’t being able to step up just because of the lack of support from their own families. I have been extremely fortunate with the support that my family has given me. A woman works outside of her home only after she manages her household and children before everything. So it is barely possible to do so much without the support of one’s family.
The Pages: If women receive support and assistance from their families, their job gets way easier. How can this awareness be grown among people?
Hafiza Momtaz Hashi: This is exactly the work that we have been stressing on consistently. I convey this message in every speech of mine, particularly towards men that, they should support the women in their families. This mindset actually needs to be grown from a very young age. Our organization’s first and foremost focus is on resisting child marriages. Our members have almost fought with a lot of families for preventing child marriages. Because once a girl gets married at a young age in our country, her becoming self-reliant becomes impossible. Every girl should get educated, achieve self-reliance, and then become capable of taking her own decisions. Why are decisions being imposed on them all the time? It is high time we snapped out of such limitations of our mindsets.
The Pages: We were talking about the support of our families. Families were usually larger in size before. There were a lot of members in the families. Even if both the parents of a kid were engaged in jobs out of the home, they had their grandparents for taking care of them. But these days, opportunities like this are getting curbed because of the emergence of nuclear families. We also have a dearth of quality day-care-centers for working women. What should we do in this case?
Hafiza Momtaz Hashi: Joint families were actually an extremely positive aspect of our society. Large families had more positives to them than downsides. We need to work on reclaiming this endangered culture of ours. Because in the absence of a child’s parents, his/her grandparents are the ones who can take the best care of him/her. Besides, we must consider increasing the number of quality day-care centers. In fact, this can be a very potential business prospect for women. Besides making her own living, she can impact the lives of numerous other working women positively in this way.