Zahra Bibi
Zahra Bibi says she is the only female butcher working at an hypermarket in Pakistan. Image Credit: Courtesy Dawn news

Dubai: Zahra Bibi is probably the only female butcher in Pakistan working at a hypermarket in Lahore.

“I am not sure if there is any other woman in the country who works as a butcher at the front, facing customers and dealing with them firsthand. I think I am the only one around,” Zahra said in her first person account published by the Dawn newspaper.

Zahra earlier worked at an embroidery shop for about five years but quit the job because of a payment dispute.

Zahra said that one of her friends advised her to apply for a job at Carrefour hypermarket, which is operated in Pakistan by Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim Group.

“After I got the job, I thought I would do anything including security duty, but they placed me in the chicken butchery section,” she added.

Zahra did not have any choice but to take the job as her father and one of brothers have died. She lives in a rented house with her mother, a sister and a sister-in-law. Her brother and she have to work to make ends meet.

“Since I knew nothing about butchery obviously, I was trained for four to five months and now I am professional butcher and work from 9am to 6pm,” she said.

Proud family

“My family is also really proud of me and support me completely, which is why I have come so far. My mother supports me and prays for me a lot; other relatives would especially come to the supermarket to watch me work and feel really happy about it.

“Initially, I was hesitant only about handling those huge knives, which I hadn’t even touched before, but gradually I overcame that fear and now I am a professional and can butcher a chicken [in] under a minute."

She said that customers have been really happy to see her taking up such a job that was considered a man’s territory so far. “Once, there was one customer, who seemed very angry and refused outright to buy chicken from me, saying I was a woman and that this wasn’t a woman’s job,” she recalled.

Respect any work

“My female colleagues call me qasai (Urdu word for a butcher), and I own the title proudly. They ask me why I chose a job where there’s a lot of stench. Some often tell me I stink because I spend so much time in the butchery, but I tell them not to disrespect someone’s work,” Zahra added.

After mastering how to butcher chicken, Zahra now wants to move on and handle mutton and beef. “It’s a bit hard because the equipment used there takes a lot more strength than it does for chicken. The boss appreciated my commitment and said gradually they’ll shift me there,” she said.