Breast cancer survivor defies odds,  flourishes as entrepreneur

Srinagar, Jan 1: Despite fighting all odds, Waheeda Akhtar, 33, a breast cancer survivor, is setting an inspiring example by not only battling her health challenges but also securing a livelihood for her family.

With unwavering determination, Akhtar established the only women’s ready-made garment shop in her locality at Kothipura Chattergam in Budgam district with the help of Jammu & Kashmir Rural Livelihoods Mission (JKRLM) in 2018. Waheeda’s dreams faced an unexpected test in 2020 when she was diagnosed with a breast tumour.

Undeterred by the health crisis, she not only battled the illness but also demonstrated remarkable resilience by paying back a 2-lakh loan during her treatment.

Today, Waheeda’s shop stands as a symbol of her resilience. Not only does it provide financial help to her family, but it also empowers other women.

Waheeda Akhter, who is a social auditor and runs a group of 122 female SHGs members under JKRLM, told Greater Kashmir that due to her illness, she had to close her shop for a year.

“During that year, I suffered a lot, but I didn’t give up and started the shop again,” she said.

She said that despite the odds, she is successfully running her business and is providing financial support to those women who are in need.

“There are women here who used to feel uncomfortable buying clothes from men. Now, they come to my shop, feel at ease, and can buy anything they wish,” she said.

Waheeda’s impact extends beyond her shop. As a social auditor and leader of a 122-member female Self-Help Group (SHG), she plays a crucial role in empowering other women to become financially independent.

“Many SHG members are running their families directly or indirectly with the help of JKRLM,” she said.

She said in winter months, her husband, a carpenter, had less work, but her earnings became a vital support system. “I earn, I help my husband with expenses, I am self-dependent,” she said.

She said that every woman, regardless of circumstances, should strive for self-reliance.

“Start your own venture, be it small or big. Don’t wait for others to support you. You have the power within you,” Waheeda said.

Meanwhile, Madina Bukhari, Block Program Manager BK Pora told Greater Kashmir that witnessing the incredible impact Umeed is creating at ground level, fills “us with immense pride.”

“It’s heartening to see the transformative impact this initiative has had, enabling women like Waheeda Akhtar to defy odds, showcasing extraordinary resilience, and achieving milestones despite adversities. We remain steadfast in our commitment to nurturing and expanding such endeavours that uplift and empower women, contributing to their economic independence and the overall socio-economic fabric of our community,” she said.

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