“Irshad Baji, hurry, you have to run or he will know you were not home!” This had become my day-to-day challenge. Everyday, I would sneak out of the house after my husband left and each night I would run back before he did. Sometimes when we got very late, we would cut across the field and take a shortcut to reach back home just in time. For years, I kept my trainings a secret. My children and even people in my neighborhood knew about it and they would all help me keep it hidden from my husband. As a man in this society, I was afraid of how he would react when I would tell him that I, too, had become self-sufficient.
My husband is a fruit and vegetable vendor who earns a meager daily wage that was hardly enough for our family of six children to survive. As the children grew, so did their needs and demands. As a mother, it was painful for me to see my children needing something and not being able to provide it to them. I had this energy in me, this drive to utilize my skills, but no platform to do so. I saw these women around me who worked tirelessly, earned their own money, and had the liberty to spend it as they wished. What must that feel like! My husband however, was a conservative man who, despite his own low wage, would never allow me work outside the house and earn for myself. I was at a crossroads; I could either submit or pursue my goals and leave the rest to God. I chose the latter. It was at that point when I joined Kaarvan Crafts Foundation and received vocational training. In no time, I had established my own work and was earning my own money.
One day, my husband eventually found out about my work. I was afraid that the years of effort would go in vain. Afraid that he would refuse to accept me as an earning partner as that is a role that our community has yet to acknowledge. Yet, I knew I had come too far to give up now. And I came to surprise even myself at how I was able to convince my husband to recognize me as an earning member of the household whose support was needed to run the affairs smoothly. Today I am able to save around PKR 10-15,000 a month while my husband earns PKR 20-25,000. Together we have been able to ensure a secure livelihood necessary for our children. What I have come to learn is that no matter how trying the times are we should stand up for our own rights, we should refuse to compromise on our talents, to stand tall and be an inspiration for countless other women to step out into their true selves.