Alisha is managing to do much more
By her example and hard work, Alisha is showing women in Pakistan that they have the power to do what they want.
A young business graduate in Pakistan had a great idea to organise events in her city. Training by the Empower Youth for Work (EYW) project was just what she needed to get started, but then the real learning began.
Alisha Khan, 22, recently completed her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in Layyah, Punjab. Towards the end of her third year at university, she attended a session led by Oxfam’s Empower Youth for Work (EYW) project. Youth Innovators were there to spread the word about EYW’s upcoming start-up competition, and to motivate more students to come forward with their business ideas. Alisha jumped at the chance: “I filled a form with my idea of starting an event management company in Layyah and shortly after was asked to attend a training at EYW’s Innovation Hub.”
A one-stop shop
Alisha had identified a lack of event management companies in the city and wanted to provide a one-stop solution to people so that they wouldn’t have the hassle of managing different service providers when planning parties, concerts, or business events. At the Hub, Alisha learnt all about conducting on-the-ground research, identifying potential competitors, marketing her idea, and creating a sustainable business model. With her colleagues Waqas Sheikh and Mazhar Mukhtiar on board, Alisha founded her company ‘Aqas Event Organisers’.
“If a client wants to plan a wedding, I would take complete responsibility for managing everything from the venue to the dress, the beauty parlour, event décor, guest invitations, photography and catering,” she says.
Best laid plans…
It wasn’t until Alisha’s very first event with her new company that she faced challenges she was not mentally prepared for, and grasped the practical realities of the business. “We were arranging a concert and had received confirmation from a popular artist; in all the excitement, we plastered the entire city with his posters and billboards”, she says. Soon, Alisha and her team were being contacted by thousands of individuals requesting tickets. Then, at the very last minute, the artist bailed out.
The show must go on
“At that point, we were faced with a huge loss and were even indebted to a friend,” she says. Undeterred, the team kept looking for replacement artists, and they eventually managed to hire a megastar! Since concerts on such a scale are a rarity in Layyah, several traders offered their services for free, including those who arranged the sound system and lighting. “We also got another famous singer to come, who later turned down her payment as a gesture of support for our community,” Alisha shares, happily. In the end, the concert was a success and appreciated widely across Layyah.
A family affair
“Once we overcame our initial hurdles, we felt confident about managing more events, and soon established a good reputation in the city,” she says. But Alisha’s successes were not without criticism; relatives and some of the community members looked down on her for working alongside two men and spending long hours outside the home. “To every girl dreaming of running her own business, I would urge her to involve her family in the whole process because once your loved ones have your back, there is no challenge that can’t be overcome,” she says.
Showcasing the work of women
Alisha plans to complete her Master’s degree in Lahore and then return to Layyah to resume her business. As word spread about a woman-led business in the city, local women designers and embroidery workers were eager to offer their services. Alisha now hopes to empower these women through work, guaranteeing fair pay and work policies. “I want to build their profiles so they, too, have an opportunity to showcase their work on a larger scale,” she says.
Alisha‘s story is part of the multiyear campaign, kicked off on International Youth Day 2019 by the Empower Youth for Work program and the Work in Progress! alliance. The campaign aims to support the national influencing work of the respective programs by joining forces with local role models. The ripples of #Iwasthere are spreading out around the world and these stories are proof that change can happen anywhere – we hope they will inspire you, too, to become an active citizen.
Why these stories?
There are more young people today than ever before in the history of the world; 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 worldwide, and 90% of them live in low-income countries. . Harnessing the energy and strength of young women and men to become active citizens is core to Oxfam's goal of transformational change.
With their energy, skills and creativity, young people have the potential to be the driving force for social change, strong economies and vibrant democracies.
Oxfam is working jointly with youth to challenge barriers that prevent them from
Enjoying their rights
Participating fully in society
Being an effective voice in decision-making processes
How youthful dreams become reality.
These stories are proof that change can happen anywhere -
to inspire you to become an active citizen.
- The Netherlands
“Development is more than just economy or infrastructure, it’s all about humans.”
“As activists, we have to be patient. Without patience we can’t do anything, we just struggle.”
Jesse van Schaik
“I hope other people think ‘if she can do it, then I can do it, and then it won’t be that hard.’”
“Youths must work every day to be the change they want to see.”
“The only thing that I cannot do, is child bearing and breast feeding. This is not naturally gifted to men!”
“My goal was to capture the essence of the vital advocacy work that goes on within powerful institutions. But in a light and approachable way.”
“We are young, we are prepared. We have many things to do.”
“The biggest challenge wasn’t informing them about modern farming techniques but persuading them to abandon outdated methods”
“Work is never defined for men and women, it is us who creates this differentiation. There are lots of people in rural areas who are not getting enough medical support, I want to do something more for their advancement by engaging the youth of our community.”
“Fear is not part of my life. I conquer the fear itself.”
“I did not have any computer knowledge prior to this time; I only used computers for watching movies!”
“We should create an environment where people can support one another and raise local funds together to buy clothes and food for poor children and mothers.”
“Work ethics and character are equally important as you cannot earn a living out of talent alone.”
“I believe young women have the capacity to change their lives if they are provided with a safe environment and support from their family, community, and government.”
“Once we overcame our initial hurdles, we felt confident about managing more events, and soon established a good reputation in the city.”
“Even if a person supports you and teaches you how to do a thing, without passion on your part, it’s a ‘NO’!”
“Without a book on my lap every day, I don’t know where I would have reached today. One day I will realize my dream of bringing all Sahil people into the library.”
Habiba believes that other women and girls will be inspired by seeing her at work.
“Seeing my success, many people are now convinced it’s OK to assist women.”
“We aim, one day, to scale up our start-up to a national level”
He started working from home to save money, providing computer support to the community, especially women.
“The beauty parlour industry is exploitative, and because women workers lack awareness about their rights, they pose little to no resistance to unfair work policies.”
“Poetry is art and expression, and has been in my blood since my childhood. If you want people to develop their country, young people are the starting point – they have the drive and stamina to pioneer changes”
To ensure the continued success of her business, she keeps up with the latest fashion trends online, adjusting them for the cultural and religious tastes of her clients.