Remembering Zuhra Karim — the revered force behind She magazine

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Zuhra Karim was one of Pakistan’s most dynamic and pioneering female journalists.

She founded She Magazine in 1963 and dedicated all her talent to making the publication a strong representative platform for women. The magazine highlighted the empowerment of women in every field, be it politics, medicine and even fashion. The magazine challenged controversial stereotypes and proposed progressive thought in regards to the image of a Pakistani woman.

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I met Zuhra Aunty when I was in my A-Level year at Karachi Grammar School and soon after when we met at a social gathering she invited me to join She. I will always remember what she said to me; “I like your thoughts young lady. Come work for She, we need more girls like you!” She Magazine was my first job and Zuhra Aunty as I came to know her, my first boss. I loved to read and write at that point in my life and She gave me the perfect outlet to express my thoughts and I was lucky to have Zuhra Karim as my first real mentor.

Zuhra Aunty was blunt in speech and always wanted 100 percent in whatever we wrote. Although at times stern in her tone, she was always really kind hearted and when the magazine went into print, we always had a cup of coffee and a good laugh over some of the faux pas that happened. At the time, we had a really close-knit editorial team with Bilquis Nasrullah, Naziha Syed Ali, Naheed Zara Yahya, Nabahat Lotia and Uzma Mazhar among many other contributing journalists.

Zuhra Aunty was blunt in speech and always wanted 100 percent in whatever we wrote. Although at times stern in her tone, she was always really kind hearted and when the magazine went into print, we always had a cup of coffee and a good laugh over some of the faux pas that happened

I joined She magazine as an intern and became assistant editor and finally fashion editor. Zuhra Karim always wanted She to have a strong fashion element to it, which she formulated and trusted me with the implementation. She said fashion was my forte and I never wanted to disappoint that trust. The first ever memorable fashion spread was the ‘wedding annual’ which we shot with Akbar Rizvi at his studio at Boat Basin. So effortlessly elegant, Zuhra Karim wore a sari like no other and in years to come, we conceptualised several style savvy fashion shoots working with industry stalwarts of that time like Maheen Khan, Nabila, Tariq Amin, Rizwan Beyg and Bunto Kazmi to name a few.

My memories of Zuhra Karim are so vivid and dear to my heart, she was truly a beacon of knowledge and an image of what a Pakistani woman should be. She held battle against women prejudice and ignorance and played a great role in social welfare.

Quoting Zuhra Karim in her first editorial message, “Tremendous work has to be done in all fields, and who can do this better than the hand that rocks the cradle.”

I was lucky to work with her in my early years before I went to college on a USAID scholarship where publication editing was one of my majors. The experience I got with She always stayed with me and now after many years as I pay tribute to Zuhra Karim, I realise that they sure don’t make women like her anymore. Her dynamic personality, her passion for women development and her inimitable style will always live on as She was Pakistan’s first and foremost women’s publication.

Fondly remembered and dearly missed, may she always rest in peace.

The writer is the chief executive officer and creative head at Phenomena. She can be reached at phenomena.by.pomme@gmail.com