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Sustainability & Success – In Conversation with Mehr F. Husain

Sustainability & Success – In Conversation with Mehr F. Husain

Nani PK |

By Nani’s Correspondent

Meet Mehr F. Husain, a distinguished British Pakistani journalist with a remarkable 16-year career. Currently the News Editor at The Friday Times, Mehr has been a prominent voice in Pakistani media since 2007. Her diverse expertise spans development, journalism, publishing, and sustainability.

Beyond her journalistic contributions, Mehr is the founder of ZUKA Accessories, a social enterprise advocating for artisan rights in the fashion supply chain. She is also the visionary behind ZUKA Books, a publishing platform recognized for its commitment to sustainable practices (UN Women Asia Pacific Shortlisted Nominee 2021, UN Publishers Compact Member 2022, Prix Voltaire Shortlisted Nominee 2023).

In addition to her entrepreneurial ventures, Mehr co-hosts Zukast, Pakistan's first podcast on sustainability, engaging in meaningful conversations at the intersection of society and the environment. In this Q&A interview, we explore Mehr's experiences, insights, and the impactful initiatives that define her extraordinary career.

This new series of interviews by Nani aims to shed the spotlight on amazing Pakistani women who share their insights about work, motherhood, and more, providing a platform for their stories to inspire and empower.


Mehr, could you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a tired mother of four – two biological, two creative. I have two boys, one social enterprise and one publishing platform. In between I cope by stand-up comedy stints and attempts to find my writing voice. Born in Britain, raised in three countries, my greatest skill is living out of a suitcase while showing up to work in a shirt with Not Too Many creases.

Many people follow a traditional career trajectory. How did you navigate your career differently, and what advice do you have for others looking to break away from the norm?

First of all, luck. And you create your own luck. How? By availing opportunities, big or small, as they come. I started working when I was 17 as a dentist’s assistant. That set me to branch out into retail which I absolutely loved and enjoyed. But it didn’t help me channel any of what I had then, idealism. So I moved into the media. And from then on it’s been like I’m swinging from treetop to treetop in the jungle which is frightening but equally exhilarating.

Sometimes you fall, sometimes you rise. The higher you rise, the harder you fall. So you’ve got to ensure solid ground is there and not the illusion of it. Risk-taking is necessary but again, make sure you’ve got people because no man is an island. And finally, you have to swim out very far to find your shore – repeatedly. 

As a prolific journalist, Editor, author and entrepreneur, how have you juggled your personal life raising two young children, and the demands of your career?

The second you become a parent, especially a mother, you become secondary. Raising children has meant I have to tailor work projects around their schedules. And yet, it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve spent nights bottle-feeding a baby, nursing a toddler to health and conducting interviews, all at the same time. The most important thing is to ensure that the necessary (as in the children) are taken care of.

Once that is done, utilise your time very well. Time management is the key to success. Every minute matters to me. I cannot emphasise how much time matters. It is everything to me.

But you have got to prioritise the necessary as a mother which is of course, the children and their needs. A schedule is your best friend, routine will keep you sane. If you can work with children accompanying you, you plan for a war. I remember setting up both Zuka Books and Zuka Accessories with my kids in the car with me and we had everything from food, toys, books, blankets, nappies, clothes and more. I even used to have food cooked and put in the car.  

Outside of work, what's your favourite way to unwind and de-stress?

Honestly, you have to carve out time for yourself and ensure everyone in the house respects it. For example, every evening I take time out to curl up under a blanket and switch off mentally. Or, once the house is all wrapped up and children tucked into bed then I put on my headphones and tune out the world for a bit as I walk away my stress. Both times everyone around me knows I need to just be and that has to be respected. Retail therapy even if just window browsing is divine. I absolutely love a good laugh as a release and that can mean anything from watching a show to talking to a friend where we inevitably question our lives but in a way where we can laugh about everything.

If you could give your younger self one piece of career advice, what would it be?

Develop your skills. I think somehow somewhere I fell into a comfort zone and didn’t really explore further skill development. It was only during the pandemic that I decided to just on a whim explore what was ‘out there’ and my God I was blown away. Life, especially in the media, has and continues to change in leaps and bounds. If you want to stay relevant then develop your skills and tailor yourself accordingly to what is happening in the now. 

We all have work quirks or rituals. What's something unique or unusual about the way you approach your work or prepare for a big project?


I love to mull over stuff. Whenever something comes my way, I love to take a bit of time and think about how I’m going to do this. It builds up momentum in my mind. I also need something to counter it. For example, if I have a manuscript to read – visually it’s all black and white. To balance it I will definitely need something colourful like a glossy to keep me anchored. If I have a political report to write, I need something like music to remind me life isn’t all that bleak.

I love the feeling of awe. To feel like I’m on the edge of a massive discovery. I watch videos of space, the planets just to remind myself there are bigger and better things out there and I’m just a speck of dust floating on what is a tiny journey. That exhilarates me.

And finally, creating my own environment. I have to have a space where it’s my world and my world alone. I remember my work space in Lahore was a massive dining table in a part of my house which I’d converted into a mini office. It was nothing but stacks of muslin thaans, wooden blockprints, patterns designs, books, papers, paintings, photograph prints and my children themselves who loved it because it showed them a world different to theirs.

What advice would you give to mothers who are keen to get 'back in the game' after taking a hiatus raising their children? How can they mentally and emotionally equip themselves to approach their careers after an extended gap?

Develop your skills. I cannot say this enough. There are so many platforms out there where you can sign up for courses for free, gain new knowledge, develop new skills and find opportunities for work.  

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