Around the world, there is a global gender revolution taking place. Women are not only finding their voices — they’re using them in most parts of the globe.

Pakistan might not be one such place but its slowly getting there. In any case, if we are ignoring our women we are doing that only at our own peril. Diminishing the importance of women means failing to make use of our full potential

54-year-old Imtiaz Gulzar has lived a life of struggle since childhood. She was denied the right to education during her childhood, married at a young age and had to deal with a troubled marriage, which ended in a divorce. At the time when she needed her family’s support, she was

At the time when she needed her family’s support, she was unwelcome at her own home leaving her looking elsewhere for support.

Fortunately, life has turned around for Imtiaz Gulzar, now a successful entrepreneur and a cloth vendor. After her divorce, Imtiaz was left looking after her two daughters and without any income. She felt depressed, helpless and even suicidal.

“I tried to commit suicide twice but my failed attempts made me realize that what I was doing was wrong and I didn’t want to leave my daughters alone”, she remembered.

Having no formal qualifications, Imtiaz decided to put her talents to good use. She joined a social welfare school as an embroidery trainer, where she was not a regular employee but received a nominal payment for her services.

“My skill has been God’s gift. I have never received any training for it. Nobody from my family or neighbourhood has been engaged in this activity so it came as a surprise to many when I opted for it”, she said.

Imtiaz worked there for five years until she married a man who owned a rice shop. Her new husband, a small business owner, encouraged her to put her interest in textiles to further use. He helped her bring cut pieces of clothes from Lahore, selling them in Sargodha at relatively low prices. When the demand increased she started embroidering the cloth to add value. With greater success and sales increasing, she realised the need for a store.

Acquiring a space in Anarkali bazaar, Sargodha was a milestone in Imtiaz’s life. The monthly Rs. 2500 rent seemed unaffordable but she kept struggling. Soon Imtiaz realised the real challenge was a lack of funds to buy stock because the central location required variety and a range of items.  One of Imtiaz’s friends suggested she look to Khushhali Microfinance Bank for financial help in the form of a micro loan.

She explored this option and received a micro loan from the bank to purchase stock.  With greater variety of stock, she became more competitive in the market. In three years Imtiaz increased sales and gained recognition in the market. Her aspiration to expand and take her business to new heights kept her determined to work harder.

Imtiaz started focusing on markets outside Sargodha and Lahore. She visited Nowshera and purchased in bulk a unique type of chiffon that she embroidered. This value addition allowed her to increase sales and expand the business.

Today, she has a shop in the popular business hub of Sargodha City. She’s hired a few female assistants to help her at the shop and at the backend of her business. “I never gave up and kept fighting against the adverse situations in my life. Those who learn from adversities and face the challenges of life ultimately win”, said Imtiaz.

Imtiaz Gulzar’s story is not just one of a woman’s struggle and success, but also an example for the rest of society. Her business has provided a livelihood to at least 35 families across Sargodha, and this number is increasing. Imtiaz is testament that, with the right financial support and encouragement, women can lead their families and the nation to prosperity and success.