Sakina Anwar is an absolute emblem of empowerment. With the amount of remarkable work she’s done she’s a modern, real life Wonder Woman. We were beyond honored to have an opportunity to interview her, where she discussed personal struggles, business ventures and life motto.
I’d like to know how you started on this path and how your personal life played a part in your endeavors?
I was born and raised in Bombay, India. We then migrated to East Pakistan, Dhaka, where I married my husband Anwar. We have been married for 48 years. My daughter, Khatidja, was born in Dhaka.Bangladesh was going through a war at the time, therefore, we were forced to migrate to Pakistan.
How was Pakistan for you? How different was it from your original birthplace?
In Pakistan, I lived in Islamabad with my daughter and husband. We had an extended family too. However, due to being new immigrants, we struggled greatly to overcome financial and settlement issues. Luckily, I got a job at the United Nations as an administrative assistant. I worked there from 1971-1985. I learnt a lot from this job which has shaped who I am today. I also had my son, Aziz, in Islamabad. With two young kids and an education system in Pakistan that was not upto par, we decided to move to the United States for a better future for our children. My second migration then was to Dallas in 1985.
How would you describe your various ventures? Was your family involved in them?
We had entrepreneurship in our blood! As soon as we migrated to Dallas, my husband started a restaurant with a mere $1,000!! My experience at the United Nations helped me to get a job at a printing press in Addison. With such a hectic schedule, my daughter supported me in helping with the household chores and with her younger brother. Even though our lives were very hectic, I was still actively volunteering within our community as that is a central ethic of our lives as Ismaili Muslims. In 1992 I quit my job and we ventured into a new business of running a sandwich shop in an office building. As I gained confidence in running my own business, I was also very actively engaged in the Aga Khan Foundation’s Partnership Walk. I was a regional coordinator for this community event that raises funds through active community involvement for the impoverished and marginalized communities in 3rd world countries. (www.akfusa.org) I led a group of 2,000 volunteers and raised $750,000 at this event which was a pilot in DFW area. This event was definitely a milestone event in my life which groomed me to my full potential as Sakina Anwar Jamal! Im proud to say that I pioneered this in 1998 and it is now an annual event that raises millions of dollars nationally to help the poor and needy around the world.Soon after, we invested in a business venture, a gas station, that led to our downfall financially. Therefore, to support my family and bring in a
steady income, I went back to corporate world and joined One World Bank. As my husband and son struggled with the gas station, Navin, my daughter in law, and I decided to venture out by opening up an insurance office. With my children’s support along with my son in law, we opened up our first insurance agency in 2006 BAJA AUTO INSURANCE. It was family owned and operated. We were all together in this business
which ultimately grew to 100 agencies within 9 years spanning DFW Metroplex and Houston. Our strength was our family unity and strength which led to its major success. By 2015, I retired from the business so I can travel and be more immersed into my passion, Volunteerism. As I mentioned before, Volunteerism is strong ethic
of the Shia Imami Ismaili faith to which I belong (www.theismaili.org) I started volunteering my time at local hospitals. Currently, I am the regional coordinator of the Aga Khan Museum in Canada. I continue to serve at a volunteer level at every opportunity afforded to me.
Do you have any word of advice for upcoming philanthropists?
Be ethical in whatever you do. Islam teaches us to serve your fellow mankind and share what is in excess. I believe that unity in family is crucial. I achieved a lot in my life because my family stood strong with me in my good times and the tough ones. So I would say strong ethics, family unity and a passion to serve humanity would be my legacy that I would leave for my children.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What are your hobbies?
I enjoy watching movies and TV shows from Pakistan. I also love to spoil and spend time with my grand kids.
Any personal saying of yours that you’d like to share?
I would just say, don’t worry about the failures. Focus only on your goals.