Monday, March 7, 2016

[Multiculturalism in Action 2015-2016] Ethnic Minority Enterprise and Social Innovation

Multiculturalism in Action 2015-16
Pakistani Culture Workshop: Making a Change for the Better

Session 6: Ethnic Minority Enterprise and Social Innovation 

Mrs. Arjumand Naveed (President, Pakistan Women Association of Hong Kong)
Mrs. Nigar Qureshi (Director, Spa Beauté Par Zai; Winner, Hong Kong Most Valuable Companies 2016 Award)
Mr. Yasir Naveed (Founder, Chefo!)
Ms. Ada Wong, JP (Convenor, Good Lab and MaD – Make a Difference Institute) 

On 16 January, 2016, the Multiculturalism in Action Project organized a public seminar entitled Ethnic Minority Enterprise and Social Innovation at the Pakistan Club. It aimed to provide a platform for the public to know more about the contributions and challenges of the Pakistani individuals residing in Hong Kong.

Our first speaker, Mrs. Arjumand Naveed, shared with the audience the work of the Pakistan Women Association of Hong Kong. It was set up in 2013 and its aims were: 1) to bridge the education and financial gap among Pakisani women in Hong Kong society; 2) to provide exposure for Pakistani women to mainstream society; and 3) to help Pakistani women to become contributing members to society. Mrs. Naveed pointed out that the Pakistani community faced difficulties such as language barriers in schools and hospitals. Besides, the gender concept in Pakistani society restricted women to stay at home. Mrs. Naveed said that the Pakistan Women Association of Hong Kong worked on connecting professionals and social organizations to offer classes and events to help Pakistani women to integrate in Hong Kong community. For instance, the Association collaborated with the Multiculturalism in Action Project, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, to organize seminars on various themes to heighten the cultural sensitivity of the locals towards the Pakistani community in Hong Kong. Besides, the Association also worked with the Equal Opportunities Commission to educate women about their rights and domestic discrimination.

Mrs. Naveed discussing the challenges faced by Pakistani women in Hong Kong

To bring the “hidden women” out from their homes, the Pakistan Women Association has formed self-help groups such as Cantonese classes, cooking classes and handicraft classes. The handicraft classes, as highlighted by Mrs. Naveed, helped the women to make use of their cultural skills to earn money which brought them self-confidence as well as appreciation from others. The next step which Mrs. Naveed and the Association planned to do was to work on small-scale businesses, with an intention to educate the public “how to trade, not aid”, and to achieve sustainable development with their cultural talents.

The second speaker, Mrs. Nigar Qureshi, stressed that not all girls are treated unequally in Pakistan. Her own experience was that, her family was happy for having her as the only girl in the family. She shared tips to be a good entrepreneur, such as: keep planning and get out of your comfort zone. Even though she was a very busy entrepreneur, she still cared for the community and continued to work with whoever seek help from her.

Mrs. Qureshi sharing her experience as a successful entrepreneur

Mr. Yasir Naveed, the third speaker, talked about his personal stories and how the idea of Chefo! came about. When he was a university student in Hong Kong, he faced difficulties in finding halal meals. Not accepting this as an unsolvable problem, he began to think of bridging his personal need with Pakistani community talents.

Mr. Naveed sharing the story of Chefo!

He said there were many ethnic minority women who were good at cooking, and who lived in different districts in Hong Kong. This labor power should be utilized effectively to bring about a win-win situation. Not only the customers could benefit from enjoying fresh halal meals, but ethnic minority women would also benefit from using their cultural skills to bring in an income and be appreciated. Mr. Naveed started Chefo! as a social enterprise, but he admitted that sometimes he wanted to quit, as it was not easy at all to run a social enterprise. However, he knew that he could not give up as Chefo! was a platform for ethnic minority women to be empowered, and its efforts had been recognized by the society. For instance, Chefo! was selected one of the Top Three Most Promising Entrepreneurship by The Economist. Mr. Naveed stressed that “passion” was the most important element to push an entrepreneur to succeed, and he would use his passion to make Chefo! even better. 

Ms. Ada Wong, convenor of The Good Lab and MaD – Make A Difference Institute, responded to the sharing of the above speakers. She also introduced different funding sources such as Social Innovation Fund, and commented that the most important thing about social enterprise was not a business degree, but commitment, action, and determination. She concluded, social innovation was an attempt to help the needy and to sweep away social injustice.

Ms. Wong answering questions raised by the audience

After the break, there was sharing by three practitioners in the empowerment of Pakistanis in Hong Kong. Ms. Zareenah Ho, Principal of the Islamic Kasim Tuet Memorial College, talked about school programs for Muslim girls to develop their talents and skills. Ms. Shabana Jamil, council member of The Pakistan Association, shared her views that empowering females was important, as it helped to eliminate gender bias. Last but not least, Ms. Ansah Malik, a welfare worker from Caritas Hong Kong, shared her appreciation for women who were great home-makers, and added that discrimination should never happen.

Practitioners sharing their efforts on empowering Muslims females in Hong Kong
(From left: Ms. Ho, Ms. Jamil, and Ms. Malik)

There was active participation from the audience in the open discussion. Mrs. Qureshi observed that the difficulties faced by the Pakistanis was not only from the minority identity, but also from their Muslim identity which was portrayed negatively in the media in the last 10 years. It is hoped that these successful entrepreneurship stories can show the audience that Pakistanis in Hong Kong were contributing to make Hong Kong a better and more multicultural society, and these efforts should not be overlooked.

The panelists in the open discussion (From left: Mrs. Qureshi, Mrs. Naveed, Mr Naveed, and Prof. Tam)

The audience also took the time to view the Exhibition on South Asian Communities in Hong Kong, as part of the “FUN with Interculturalism” project. Volunteers served as docents in explaining the content of the exhibition and distributed pamphlets in five languages: Chinese, English, Hindi, Nepali, and Urdu.

Docents at the Exhibition

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