“Rabia’s resourcefulness, creativity, and drive, along with the excellent support she received from her family, allowed her to use what she learned from EWI and finally take the next step and then the step after that.”
My Love Letter to the Sun, Passion, Aspirations–vibrant colors swirl across their silk homes, creating emotion in each scarf. The hands behind these silk treasures belong to silk artist, Rabia Naeem Pervez. And, like most mothers, Rabia resists naming a favorite piece, admitting only that she has a special fondness for her heart-spotted ‘Be Mine’ collection, aptly named with her husband’s help. Sifting through her scarves, it is hard to believe that not long ago, Rabia’s path was uncertain, her art barely a seed in her mind.
Rabia left Lahore, Pakistan in 2002, immigrating to her new husband’s home in the United States. In Pakistan, Rabia had earned a business degree and worked in the corporate world before moving into a successful teaching career. Yet, in the U.S., this successful and educated woman struggled to find professional and personal footing. Having a different religion than those around her was, at times, isolating, and new cultural and social customs caused Rabia discomfort. Even having to shake men’s hands proved difficult. Perhaps most challenging was the U.S. review of Rabia’s educational credentials. Rabia quickly discovered that teaching in the U.S. would require time and resources for more education.
Starting a family and rebuilding a career with limited professional, personal, and financial resources is hard. Even after contacting everyone she knew for advice, Rabia felt lost. In Pakistan, she used her love of art to make and sell clothing, providing Rabia with a viable option for working in America. But, the clothing she was accustomed to making would be expensive to produce in the U.S. and would not exactly translate to an American audience.
Rabia wandered shops and art galleries looking for ideas. She experimented at home, gaining confidence from the praise of those who saw her work. Reaching the next step, however, eluded Rabia. Then, after nearly two years of searching, Rabia found a door to opportunity. While exploring the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, she met an artist who advised Rabia to contact Empowered Women International (EWI).
Rabia completed EWI’s 12-week ‘Training for Success’ program and took advantage of their business coaching. She created an artist’s statement, learned how to market her work, and built a rich portfolio. EWI helped her choose price points and refine her art, even working with her to shorten her scarves inch by inch to maximize their appeal to U.S. clients.
With determination, Rabia pored through silk painting books and worked on pieces at home while her toddler daughter played. When needed, Rabia relied on her network of former students, now scattered across the globe, to help her find the perfect supplies. Rabia’s resourcefulness, creativity, and drive, along with the excellent support she received from her family, allowed her to use what she learned from EWI and finally take the next step and then the step after that.
Six years later, Rabia is a successful artist, business owner, and entrepreneur. Her Web site, Silk ‘n Paint, brims with finely-painted silk scarves, beaded shawls, and hand-embroidered bags. Rabia is branching out into making jewelry, working both independently and in collaboration with EWI when she needs product development and marketing advice.
When asked how EWI influenced her growth and success, Rabia quickly responds, “EWI took me to a new level. They helped me move from being a vendor to a true artist.” She also credits EWI with enabling her to reach goals beyond her art — Rabia now serves as President and Marketing Strategist for the IT company, Velocity Zone, which her husband founded.
As far as what the future brings, Rabia envisions her daughters growing up to fulfill their goals too, and smiles as she describes how they, having watched their mother work and grow, now create their own masterpieces and dream of being artists, businesswomen, and mothers.
Written by Samantha Crowe
Samantha Crowe has her doctorate in neuroscience from Georgetown University and is currently a neuroscientist and freelance writer. She researches the impact of trauma on men and women, and has a vested interest in promoting social and economic stability through education and empowering women. Samantha lives with her husband and daughter in Rockville, MD.