For nearly 30 years, Zareena has been struggling to find a way to support her family. It tears her apart to watch her elderly parents work tirelessly to look after her and her three younger siblings and she feels that it’s time she did something to take charge of the situation.

That’s where supermodel Mehreen Syed’s NGO ICARE comes in. Founded under the aegis of Syed’s International Fashion Academy of Pakistan (IFAP), the country’s first private training institute for professionals working in the fashion industry, ICARE aims to empower women by providing them with technical expertise in the field of hair and make-up. “I’ve personally struggled a lot in my life,” Syed speaks in an emotional manner to explain her motivation for setting up the NGO. “Having reached this level of success, I vowed that I would make sure other women didn’t have to suffer the kind of hardships and failures that I endured. This
is my way of giving back.”

The day I meet Zareena, she is proudly gearing up for her graduation ceremony. Zareena is amongst the first batch of women to have benefitted from “Beauty for a Better Life”, a philanthropic educational programme with the mission to not only empower women but also provide them with a sense of self-esteem, through a 3-month, free-of-charge professional make-up training course. A joint collaboration between L’Oreal Paris and ICARE, the programme aims to make the participating women self-sufficient enough to support their families.

The unnervingly tall and captivatingly gorgeous Mehreen Syed, who acted as a mentor to the trainees, shows me around the well-equipped IFAP headquarters where the training course took place. She’s been on ground since early morning, prepping the girls for the ceremony and making sure everything is running like clockwork.

She walks me into a room with work stations equipped with make-up generously provided by L’Oreal Paris. Next to each station stands a trained student responsible for the makeover of the models, bloggers and socialites filling the seats. The girls’ skills are being put to the test and along with me, quite a few models are present as supporters of this wonderful cause. I spot Zara Peerzada, Sadaf Kawal, Anam Malik and Sonia Nazir.

This particular day was the first interaction the students were going to have with clients and that too, such glamorous ones! Yet I was glad to see that the girls were confident, quick on their feet, and very excited to test their strenuous training. I introduced myself to Zareena and after a few quick words about the make-up style that I preferred, she picked up her tools. With a swift movement of the hand, a puff here and a stroke there, she read my mind like an open book.

Stealing conversation while getting my make-up done, I found out more about the women enrolled in the programme. The lack of decent employment opportunities had driven them to a point of hopelessness but “Beauty for a Better Life” had turned their lives around. Extremely enthusiastic about the options now open to them, Zareena told me that they all have big dreams and bright plans.

Impressed thoroughly by my daytime make-up look, I commended Zareena on her remarkable skills. I could recognize behind that wide smile the sense of achievement she felt and how much the exposure had improved her self-confidence.

Syed, overwhelmed at having accomplished a project she had dreamed of, said, “This is a very proud and emotional moment for me. These girls are now on their journey of self-reliance and exploring their talent. It is so special to achieve success after a period of tough adversity and circumstance; this is very close to my heart!”

Not only has the training programme taught these women the secrets of make-up application but it has also educated them about the importance of marketing, dealing with numbers, bits of accounting and more importantly, how to interact with clients. They were taught the paramount importance of leaving the client satisfied.

The graduation ceremony kicked off with a welcome note delivered by Syed. She recounted her own struggles as well as those of the graduating batch and emotions ran high as the trainees received their certificates proudly, with many on stage and in the audience holding back tears.


Talking about the ceremony, L’Oréal Pakistan General Manager, DPP Salman Amjad said, “The programme is designed in accordance with the international standards in theory and practice of the L’Oréal Foundation. In Pakistan, we specifically want to cater to the youth and to make them financially independent.”

This batch is the first of many and the collaboration will continue in the months to come with the aim of making the country a better place, one employed woman at a time.