‘I realize the hard work it takes to change the world’
Updated: Feb 3
“I married into a low-income family. My father-in-law was a rickshaw driver,” says Maria Taqdees, who moved to Baldia Town, among the poorest of Karachi’s neighbourhoods, to live with her husband in a one- room house.
“I was miserable when I first got married, I couldn’t believe that I was an educated girl, I knew English and had studied in an American high school, and here I was, in between girls and women who were almost illiterate. There was no access to computers and to the world. I did not fit in.” After three years of feeling alienated and unhappy, Maria realized that it was time to do something about it.
Maria then opened her own vocational training centre that she called “Hunar Ghar”. This centre offers different skills-based programs and is largely frequented by women.
In the beginning, people in the area did not accept her efforts. They were suspicious of her, an outsider whose ideas were pushing societal norms for girls to move freely and choose what they wanted to do.
Maria says that there were announcements from the mosque loudspeaker behind her house saying “Do not send your girls and wives to this woman, she’s working on a foriegn agenda.’”
Maria says she took this all in patiently. “I was patient with everyone because I knew they did not understand some things, and I knew that patience was really the only way.”
The same people at the mosque now tell the community to send their daughters to her centre so they can learn and grow. “I realize the hard work it takes day in and day out to live a dream to change the world.”
Maria’s patience and long-term vision has served her well. A mother of three, who relishes her role as mother and wife, she says of her husband, who is 14 years older than her: “My husband is my best friend. He has supported me all these years even when he did not understand what I was trying to do. I am so grateful to him.”
There are many Maria’s out there, some of them unaware of their potential. These are the women that need our help to build their capacity, so the society as we know it, can become an inclusive and tolerant space.