Seema Aziz, a graduate from University of Punjab and Harvard Business School was named one of the Amazing Pakistani Women by Forbes, Philanthropist of the Year by Hello! Pakistan and received the UK Women of the Year Award in 2016.
Speaking to Forbes in an interview in 2010, Seema Aziz said,
“I don’t look at anything as a hindrance. Every obstacle is something to surpass.”
Her journey thus far is a testament to this. Whether you look at this through the textile empire Bareezé she has built over the last three decades, or her globally recognized educational non-profit CARE; Seema has most certainly surpassed many obstacles and established a legacy for herself.
Seema and her brother founded SEFAM (Bareezé) in 1985 after an argument with a local shopkeeper who insisted that Pakistan was not capable of competing with other countries in producing high quality fabric unless they put a “Made in France” label on it. Seema took this claim as a challenge.
With little to no investment and a total of two sewing and embroidery machines, Seema and her brother set about to prove what Pakistan was capable of. Not only did they do so but they also proceeded to build Bareezé into a textile empire with 500 points of sale, 5,000+ employees and a reputation for being one of the best in fabric quality. Bareezé has established itself as an international brand, with outlets in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Delhi, London, Manchester and Malaysia, and boasts a reputation for having the finest fabric quality in the world.
Seema’s drive for making the impossible, possible did not (start or stop!) with Bareezé. During the 1988 flooding in areas around Lahore, as she was helping with relief activities; Seema realized that the children in that area had been following her around all day long. She told Beyrasli at Forbes, that she felt like the Pied Piper as she was walking around and hundreds of dirty, half naked children with matted hair were following her footsteps. It is then that she realized that they had no schools in the area and the children had nothing better to do. That sparked the thirst to face this challenge head on for Seema. She resolved to ensure that such children be provided with well equipped, resource filled schools. She founded CARE Foundation and this is where Seema’s passion came to fruition.
CARE’s first school opened in 1991 with 250 students in the first year, and 450 in the second year. She began CARE schools with her personal funds initially but within a few years she raised enough money through family and friends to open ten more schools. Today, CARE has 888 schools with 300,000 students enrolled across Pakistan. When asked why her focus has only been on opening schools, Seema replied;
“The poor don’t want to study, but everyone wants a better life for their children.” (Parhlo)
She strongly believes in making her students independent, hence each child has to pay as little as Rs. 10 for their school fee so that they may not feel that they are studying on charity. She also told Forbes that she personally reviews all the curriculum and lesson plans taught in her schools so that the quality of education is not compromised.
When talking about balancing between Bareezé and CARE, Seema talks about the parallels between her two ventures, emphasizing in both a commitment to quality and a conviction in leading by example. (Global thinkers)