RAKHSHAN SHAMIM ZAHID
Social Entrepreneur, Fashion Expert
President of Begums of Bhopal, WEES
Founder Taraash Design Lounge
Brand Ambassador Raag Bhopali
Our readers would like to know about your academic achievements and your interest in various creative fields.
I have done my initial schooling in Aurangabad, Delhi, and Bhopal. I went to Nutan College, Bhopal and did my BA, (Psychology, English Literature, Sociology) and MA in English Literature. Then, in the second inning of my life, I have done an MBA in HR, and International Business, from Barkatullah University. 3 months Diploma course in Fashion Designing from CRISP. Also, I like music, travelling, cooking, and gardening.
You are a renowned social entrepreneur. How would you like to define social entrepreneurship?
Social entrepreneurship is a big responsibility. Not only giving proper guidance to budding entrepreneurs but providing them with good opportunities and platforms and helping them to grow their businesses or start-ups should be taken as a responsibility.
What are the must-have qualities of a successful women entrepreneur?
Perseverance, confidence, hard work, prompt decision-making with determination, and innovations are the basic qualities of a successful women entrepreneur.
Please tell us about your successful journey from your initial education to being the president of WEES, a women’s education and empowerment society.
Although I started my professional journey as a sub-editor in the English Daily newspaper, MP Chronicle, I quit the job due to family responsibilities and then I started dress designing at the domestic level to balance both personal and professional lives. I decided to create a niche for my designs by using use unusual colour combinations and eye-catching designs and soon my dresses gained popularity. This gave me the confidence to create my fashion brand Taraash. Under Taraash, I hold many exhibitions at big platforms including Dubai and Singapore.
However, this journey wouldn’t have been possible without the support of a strong team of tailors, embroiders and ladies making crotchet, badla and other creative arts to curate designer pieces. Their talent was not confined up to this only, I realised their creativity and talent can be encouraged and displayed on important platforms to make them more self-reliant. With this motive, I established an NGO WEES (Women Education Empowerment Society) to support underprivileged ladies of slum areas. We have an efficient team of members who work diligently towards the weaker section of society. Under that, we opened the Anwa Ladies Training Centre, where skill development and Vocational training are given to help them to join the mainstream.
What is the vision and mission of WEES? What are the key achievements?
WEES works to promote underprivileged ladies of slum areas. Ladies of Anwa Ladies Training Centre not only make hand-crafted and sustainable products with recycled materials but also established themselves as budding designers. Sustainable outfits made by them have been showcased in many fashion shows. Their products are being supplied at national and international levels. Apart from that many social activities are being carried out under WEES to support other strata of Society. We are supporting young girls to complete their education. Workshops have been organised to make them aware towards health and hygiene. During COVID, WEES has actively participated to serve people of weaker sections including food packet distribution, treatment of the patients and oxygen supply to the hospitals. Also, we have supported ladies to open their home kitchens and earn their livelihood.
What are your topmost priorities as the President of Begums of Bhopal organisation? What are the initiatives you have taken to expand the features of this prestigious organization?
Begums of Bhopal, The Ladies Club.
Right from 19th century colonial India, the Begums of Bhopal are inspirational figures and had a unique way of presenting themselves that explained their dominance and resonated with their achievements as women. To continue the past glory and century-old legacy, Begums of Bhopal, The Ladies Club, was commenced in 2019 to revive the same old ladies club. It is the registered body with the same motive and an endeavour to revive the legacy and cultural heritage supported by various ethical and social campaigns while maintaining the Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb of Bhopal.
Being the President of this prestigious organisation my top priorities are to add dynamic and enterprising ladies of different fields so that they can guide, inspire, and represent other ladies who are aspiring to make recognition in society.
We encourage women’s empowerment and networking promote our rich culture and heritage through various activities throughout the year.
The members of Begums of Bhopal maintain harmony in celebrating all the cultures and festivals especially Eid Milan as Jashn-e-Feerozi in summer, Jashn-e-Hariyaali as Sawan during monsoon and Jashn-e-Gulabi as Diwali Milan in winter. Besides that, The Club was started with a heritage drive to pay tribute to the beautiful monuments built by the rulers and begums. It is every year followed by the Club organising a Women’s Heritage Car Rally, ‘Aaghaz’ in association with Raag Bhopali, a district administration initiative to promote art and handicrafts of the state. The main purpose of Heritage Drive is to make people aware of the historical importance of the city with a strong message. And lead ladies to become self-dependent. So far we have organised rallies promoting mobility factor among SHG ladies to help them earn livelihood and Digital awareness among ladies.
Also, my priority is to promote local artisans and their craftsmanship. People should be enlightened with the traditional art forms and basic character of the city. Resonating with the idea behind the club, we consider every woman ‘Begum’ who is empowered and has extraordinaire in her field respective field. Members of the club include professionals, bureaucrats, homemakers, and entrepreneurs.
Pari Bazar is a historical bazaar for ladies established 150 years back. How this bazaar has been redesigned under your leadership for the last few years?
Pari Bazaar is a symbol of women’s empowerment established by Begum Sultan Jahan. She saw the opportunity and scope in various fields and founded Princess of Wales, The Ladies Club, which then Viceroy Lord Minto’s wife, inaugurated. The Club was intended to provide a delightful change for ladies after the household’s hard duties and offer opportunities to partake in all sorts of intellectual, moral and national movements.
We have revived the concept of Pari Bazaar with slight variations with the change of time. In the olden days due to Purdah System, Pari Bazaar had been organised to encourage women’s empowerment and brought forward the talent and creativity of the ladies who couldn’t have gone out and earned a livelihood. So this Bazaar had been organised by women, of women and for women. Buyers and sellers both used to be ladies, a boy of age more than 7 or 8 years was not even allowed to visit Bazaar. But with changing periods, Pari Bazaar lost its charm and glory and came to a halt. But we must laud the efforts of ladies of that era, around 150 years back, they had talked about women’s empowerment, today at every nook and corner we can see campaigns related to it.
Begums of Bhopal revived and redesigned the concept of Pari Bazaar as the Pari Bazaar Heritage Festival and the first time it was organised in February 2021 at Kamla Park, a symbol of womanhood, to pay tribute to Bhopal’s first women ruler, Rani Kamlapati, in which people from Bhopal and other parts of the country had participated. It was followed by Season 2 in December 2021 and Season 3 in December 2022 which allowed the couple entry and also invited male performers, artists, authors, and writers as their contribution to the development of the city and its character over time can’t be denied. Also, we believe in gender equality. But basically, Pari Bazaar Heritage Festival has been organised to promote women’s empowerment on every possible platform.
Pari Bazaar, the Heritage Festival provides a strong platform for artisans, ladies of self-help groups, creative artists, weavers and empower women. We encourage and invite people of Bhopal and other parts of the country to come forward and relive the most progressive city of the past and pledge to make it again for the nextgen.
How much do you are satisfied with Pari Bazaar performances? What is the response from customers and visitors?
I’m overwhelmed with the performance and success of the Pari Bazaar Heritage Festival, as in just a small period, ie within 2 years it has become a well-known brand and is considered one of the most highlighted events in Madhya Pradesh. As per our statistics, around 30,000 walk-ins have been registered including dignitaries of Bhopal.
Glad to inform you that Season 1 in February 2021, had been inaugurated by Mr Bhupendra Singh Thakur, Minister of Housing and Urban Development of Madhya Pradesh, Chief Guest was Mrs Simran Singh Bains, President of IAS Wives Association.
Pari Bazaar Season 2 was held in December 2021 and was inaugurated by Mr Narottam Mishra, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs of Madhya Pradesh and the Chief Guest was Mr Vishwas Sarang, Minister of Medical Education, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation, Madhya Pradesh Government.
For the third successful consecutive time, Season 3 had been successfully organised by the club in December 2022 at Kamla Park Bhopal. The Chief Guest was Honourable Home Minister MP, Mr Narrottam Mishra, President was Minister of Medical Education and Gas Tragedy Rehabilitation MP, Mr Vishwas Sarang and the Guest of Honour was Mayor Bhopal, Mrs Malti Rai. Special guests were CGM NABARD, Mr Nerupam Mehrotra and Mr Ajay Goenka, President of Chirayu Charitable Hospital.
This year Pari Bazaar had around 54 stalls of handicrafts items, home furnishings items, organic food stalls, jewellery and other accessories supported by MPT, NABARD, HSVN, and Khadi Gramodyog Board, Tribal and Welfare Ministry. Along with different cultural activities by students, renowned artists, stage shows, talk shows, theme based fashion shows by NIFD students, Mushaira, Kavi Sammelan, Sufi Qawwali and other traditional art forms enthralled the audience and we are encouraged to bring it next year in large dimensions.
What are your expectations from the MP State Govt to meet the financial needs of your social organisations?
Since we are promoting and working in the direction to enlighten people with the golden heritage and culture of the city and creating a platform for women’s empowerment, we expect that MP Govt should substantially help and support Pari Bazaar as it will attract tourists from all over the world and generate revenue. With strong financial assistance, we could be able to organise it in a better way and on large scale. However, including MP Tourism, some other departments are extending their support to PB but we expect MP Govt should take it as a flagship event.
Please tell us about your initiative for Kyaari plantation and development.
Under Kyaari plantation and development we do projects of landscaping, farm and garden development, plant supply and garden management. Also, we have opened a boutique nursery where a wide variety of exotic, ornament, medicinal and seasonal plants are available. For gift purposes, plants with decorative planters are there. Mainly we use recycled planters made by the ladies of Anwa Training Centre. Kyaari is also working towards environmental protection through plantation drives.
What are your priorities as a brand ambassador of Raag Bhopali?
Raag Bhopali is mainly an initiative that has been taken by the district administration to promote local handicrafts made under one district one product scheme by rural SHG ladies. Zardozi and Jute are two products assigned under ODOP. Zari Zardozi work is an old traditional art form of Bhopal. Being the Ambassador my efforts are to promote Bhopali handcrafted products and help SHG ladies to become self-reliant. Also to introduce people to Bhopal and its rich heritage and culture.
You are a winner of multiple awards in the field of social work and entrepreneurship. Which is the biggest award for you in this journey you feel proud of?
The very first award I got was from the Times of India Group for social entrepreneurship. I feel proud of the State Achiever Award in the field of social work, being selected among 200 Iconic Indian beauties and only 2 from the State and listed among 100 Inspiring Indian Muslim Women by RBTC from MP. Recently, I am awarded by Healthcopeia at South Asia Summit in Goa for promoting sustainable fashion makes me feel proud.
Talented working women from different creative fields from rural areas are mostly ignored, they do not get proper remuneration for their work. How women from rural India can be financially empowered?
However, many government-backed schemes are being implemented to empower women from rural areas but they are not aware of them. So it’s an important duty of SHGs and NGOs to educate these women about the privileges and opportunities that have been given to them and they must reach them directly. Also, connect them to such platforms that are working for the upliftment of such women so that they can display their creativity and talent.
What do you think is the reason behind the large number of women dealing with mental illness today?
Women mostly are dealing with mental illness because of the unnecessary stress they take that leads to frustration and anxiety. Not taking proper care of their health and deficiencies of required vitamins affect their thinking process and they acquire negativity towards everything happening around them. Also due to their busy and hectic schedule, they lack proper time management and develop guilt over the failures and mess created in their lives. Due to all such pressures, they are unable to cope with life positively and suffer depression.
Who inspired you the most in life?
My parents are my biggest inspiration. I always dreamt of becoming that accomplished in my life. I also believe that learning is a never-ending process and you learn and inspire by many people, even children in your life. So any sort of motivation keeps you moving ahead.
You are always fit and energetic. What is the secret behind your fitness?
I am an optimistic person. I strongly believe that if you work diligently, God has created enough space for all to show your capabilities so I cheer for all, avoid unnecessary stress and don’t believe in cat races.
Above that I give utmost importance to physical fitness I take a balanced diet, regularly do yoga for 45 mins and pranayam for 15 mins to keep the body inwardly and outwardly fit and calm. Your inner peace and positivity reflect on your personality. I believe in the blessings of the Almighty, everything is destined and it will come to you at right time. Just focus on your goals and make smart moves in life
Also, I have a very minimalist approach towards life. I don’t believe in extravaganzas. Keep your vision big, think high but don’t waste your money and energy on irrelevant pieces of stuff. Think good, do good, and spread goodness.