The sky’s the limit
‘Every girl has the capability of doing anything she wants; as long as you believe in yourself and have your family’s support.’
Kehkashan Shazadi, 21, comes from a low-income family and lives in Karachi with her parents, brother and two sisters. She was born with a squint eye and poor eyesight and has suffered from stigma throughout her life, due to her disability.
Times have been hard. Despite the efforts of their mother who worked in a garment factory for over ten years to pay for their school fees, due to ill health, she left her job and the children had to drop out of school. In addition, Kehkashan’s father and brother were made redundant due to COVID-19, causing the family to fall further into financial crisis.
Kehkashan always dreamed of becoming a professional photographer. Despite her disability she was eager to train but could not afford the fees or a camera. To support her daughter’s dream, her mother sold a gold chain to buy her a second-hand camera and Kehkashan started doing free photo-shoots for her friends. Even then, she was ridiculed by others because of her disability and eyesight problem:
‘People always put me down and doubt my abilities, but their negativity makes me determined to strive harder’.
Despite the challenges, she decided to become independent and through a British Asian Trust partner, she was offered some free fashion shoots leading to her appointment as assistant photographer with enough income to start supporting her family. She also enhanced her skills with photography training via the partner’s scholarship programme.
Life is still hard due to the pandemic, with cancelled events and the family’s job losses, but Kehkashan takes pride in how her job has kept them going. Considering her male-dominated profession, she would like to open her own studio and teach girls photography to empower them to work alongside men:
‘I feel very independent, because sometimes I do wedding photography and cover it with four to five male photographers. I used to feel scared, but now, there’s no problem. I would advise to women…you mustn’t think that you are unable to do work. You can do anything.’
Kehkashan is an example for other young women in her community who want to excel in their chosen field and reach for the sky.
Help us to create opportunities for women like Kehkashan, by donating to our ‘If I Can, She Can’ Aid Match Appeal. Donate before 31 May 2021 and your gift will be doubled by the UK government to support people in the poorest parts of South Asia, particularly women, whose lives have been devastated by COVID-19.
Match funding from the UK government will be used to fund our innovative Women’s Economic Empowerment programme in Pakistan, to equip women with the skills, knowledge and confidence needed to find a job or start their own businesses in a post-COVID world.