Kashmir: Overcoming challenges, woman entrepreneur emerges as role model in Doda

IOK - Indian Occupied Kashmir Jammu & Kashmir

Bhaderwah, (PTI): Finding no takers for her handicraft art initially, Aneeza Mushtaq kept her spirits high to pursue her childhood dream of making a living from paper mache art by using her eco-friendly innovations.

Mushtaq (35), a resident of Bhaderwah town in Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district is fast emerging as a successful female entrepreneur who registered her innovative startup in March and in a short span of time has become instrumental in providing livelihood to 200 village women, majority of them homemakers and some students.

“I got fascinated by the paper mache art of Kashmir in my school days and always wanted to adopt it…I want to make it completely eco-friendly by not using any plastic material or synthetic colour,” Mushtaq told PTI. Mushtaq, who started pursuing her dream in 2007, uses egg shells, walnut shells and empty glass bottles to make paper mache products. She said people used to discourage her by saying that no innovation is acceptable in this art.

“Even authorities of the Jammu Kashmir handicrafts department initially refused to register my works. But I kept my resolve until the director of startups at SKUAST (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology) Jammu saw my products in an exhibition at their campus in Chatha and encouraged me and got my startup registered but with a twist as I was asked to make it as ‘Jammu Paper-Mache,” she said.

In the last seven months, Mushtaq, a mother of a seven-year-old son, got a lot of recognition and participated in more than 25 exhibitions in different parts of the country including Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Suraj-Kund, besides Army’s Sangam festival.

Now, she is not only making a good fortune for herself but also providing training to these women but also helping them in a big way to ensure that they are financially empowered.

Trainees, both homemakers and students, are beaming with joy at their newfound success and express their gratitude to their role model for training and encouraging them to believe in themselves.

“Due to some domestic issues, we were facing serious financial problems and I was finding it very difficult to make both ends meet for my family but now I have confidence that soon I will become financially independent as my products are being liked and people have started buying them too,” Shalu Devi (29), a resident of village Manthla, said.

“I am a mother of two schoolgoing kids and have lost all my hopes to do something in my life for my own identity, but this art has given me confidence and I have started believing in myself. This is surely the beginning of a new life for me,” Rizwana Begum (37) of Mohalla Qilla said.

Mushtaq is also helping the trainees to get registered with J-K handicrafts department and making them eligible for the monthly stipend as well.

“Government has come up with the ‘Kar-khan-dar’ Scheme to promote handicrafts in Jammu and Kashmir. Our venture (Jammu Paper-Mache) has been approved by the authorities, once registered all the trainees will be eligible for Rs 2,000 monthly stipend,” Mushtaq said.

However, she said there was an inordinate delay in the registration of the trainees due to the transfer of Assistant Director Handicrafts, Doda over four months ago.

“The post of Assistant Director Handicrafts (Doda) has been vacant for the last four months and I am going to help the trainees to get registered immediately once the new officer is deputed,” she said.