Gender inequality has been prevalent in Jammu and Kashmir, especially in rural areas where women are least educated. According to a 2011 census, the female high-school dropout rate is higher than that of males. Males are seen as able to get a job and help support the family; females are seen as an expense since they will marry and leave home.
However, Unis was determined to make her mark. She decided to do something unconventional and it worked. Finishing her architecture studies in Pune she started to practice architecture in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
While starting she had just one thing in mind, to design spaces that would be “functional, affordable and beautiful”.
Mehak Suhail is emblematic of a new generation that is changing how people think about architects and what architects can do. But not many were prepared to take a chance on an unknown architect.
“I looked at it as an advantage,” she says. “There was less competition.”
She started getting requests from people who needed a place designed for them, and she began designing private homes, as well as public buildings. Her breakthrough came when she designed a cafe for a major hotel in the valley. The owners loved it so much that they used it for their bakery establishment.
Working as an architect in Kashmir is not the same as working in the rest of the country. “The issues are different, and more complicated here. Challenges are many from finding a contractor who will not take advantage, to working with a client who won’t pay,” says Mehak
“Srinagar is my home, and I love living here,” says Mehak. “I like working in my homeland. I have seen a lot of changes in the Valley, be it the change in lifestyle or the infrastructure.”
She believes the key to success as a designer is to find a way to work through these problems with grace and poise.