"We Don't Need Miracles To Change The World, We Just Need Each Other"
Inspirational quotes can give many of us a lift, particularly those times when we’re feeling in need of a pick-me-up or we want to show a friend that we’re standing alongside them.
For Shaherazad Umbreen, it’s been a passion for as long as she can remember to support and empower other women, to ensure that they can live happy and empowering lives. So often, girls and women can be raised with the notion that they shouldn’t aim for a great career or that the board room is out of their reach. Shaherazad and her sisters were fortunate in that the blueprint for life, passed on by their mother, encouraged them to treasure their education and then aim for the stars. “We were told that nothing was out of reach,” says Shaherazad. “Studying hard was emphasised as a means of opening doors to great careers, but it was equally important that my sisters and I all understood that you also need to champion your fellow women and act like a cheerleader for each other”; encouraging as well as receiving encouragement.
Having carved a successful career, most recently as Head of Customer & Marketing for a British retailer, Shaherazad found that her passion for wearing great shoes often left her with pain and discomfort at the end of a day in the boardroom and several meetings. “Although my collection of high heels looks stunning, it’s well-known that the majority of high-end shoe designers are men and they don’t have to endure the discomfort that comes from long days spent in heels,” she says, “so I spent two years learning my trade of creating great shoes that are kind to feet. I learned that flamingos manage to distribute their weight evenly, so copied the principle. I also loved that flamingos share the duties of raising young equally, both males and females and that they both blush. I believe in equality, therefore it seemed perfect to align my shoe architecture with these amazing birds.”
The 18 hour heel was soon born – shoes that enable women to stand for up to 18 hours without pain and discomfort. However, solving the problem of sore feet isn’t Shaherazad’s biggest passion for how she wants her business, Shoes by Shaherazad, to make a real difference. “Before I learned the craft of designing and hand-making shoes for other women to enjoy, I always wanted to create a business that could actively generate profits that could be used to empower and support girls and women living in poverty,” she shares. “Women are often denied the opportunity to receive an education and to become financially independent, either due to the lack of financial means or because investing in their learning and development is seen as unnecessary,” she adds, “so the shoe business enterprise is really my way of helping to empower females who haven’t had the same educational opportunities that my sisters and I benefited from. When empowered women empower other women, the world becomes a better place.”
Shaherazad wants to ensure that the cycle of poverty is broken and her heels are certainly helping to do this, little by little. To date, in partnership with Global Giving, Shoes by Shaherazad has helped with 5 projects in 4 countries, all focused on giving women access to education. This year, 500 girls have been helped already, in Kenya, Palestine, Pakistan and Peru, with the aim to invest in every country in the world over the coming years, where there are females in need of educational support. “I want to help address the imbalance of opportunities for females. What if females were able to find their own happy ending? What if we could have ‘equally ever after’ instead of ‘happily ever after’?”, says the entrepreneur.
That’s not all. It’s one of Shaherazad’s aims to help women reduce the amount that they spend on fashion which only gets worn a few times. Her 18 hour heels are durable and can be enjoyed for many occasions and settings, all thanks to the added ‘shoellery’ – jewellery for shoes – which can transform a daytime look to enable a hop from the boardroom to the bar. Instead of a new pair of shoes for a special occasion, these heels can be transformed. Sales have been extremely encouraging to date, including a complete sell-out situation earlier this year, after a national newspaper shared the benefits of heels that don’t hurt with its readers. “I believe in buying less, but buying better,” Shaherazad adds, “it’s been very hard work developing these shoes, but it’s been the most rewarding work I’ve ever done, particularly as these are good deed shoes – good for the heels, good for the head and good for the heart.”