Three Meetings With Mumtaz Arif
Meeting 1 : I met Mumtaz in the winter of ’16 while she was undergoing her skills training at Kaarvan’s Training Institute in Bahawalpur. Of the 50 women I surveyed that day, she stood out. She was a single mother of three children living on the upper floor of her brother’s small house, who did not financially support her. She was stitching clothes of her neighbourhood on need-basis those days, rning barely enough to make her children eat and attend school. But her struggle, unkempt uniform and feeble exterior were not what made her unique. The resolve in her eyes did. She told assertively that she wanted to open her own boutique. Anyone who saw her that day would have thought it was a far-off, if not an impossible, dream.
Meeting 2: Nine months passed. Mumtaz’s batch was called for an Impact Evaluation Analysis. Fate would have me survey her again. I recognized her instantly. She looked better, well-fed and well-dressed. She told me eagerly that she had reinvested her stipend from the training (something a few do) to buy material to make embroidered clothes, using skills she had learnt from the fashion design course. She was then making dresses, selling them to relatives/neighborhood by displaying them in a small room in her house. When asked how much she earned, she did not truly know. ‘I reinvest all that I earn’. She added with a glow in her eyes, ‘The next time we meet, I might as well have my boutique!’.
Meeting 3: And she did. Our last meeting was a year after our first one. Mumtaz has dedicated a small room in her house to display her clothes, a room she calls ‘Mumtaz’s Boutique’. I was awestruck. She gets work done from around 20 kaarigars (workers), and still does not know how much she actually earns because she keeps reinvesting to make her business grow. She does however say it is enough to feed her children, school them and buy them decent clothes. Her aim is to earn enough to get herself a better space for her boutique and possibly rent a small apartment for herself and her children. I told her that I believed in her to achieve this goal as well. She smiled, ‘Let’s hope I have achieved that in our next meeting’. I can’t wait for our fourth meeting!