By Bakhtawar Khalid
Ammarah Shah is an author and founder of Kaho Kahani, a unique storytelling platform with original content and inspiring stories. She is also a member of the 2020 Accountability Incubator cohort from Pakistan. A young mother of one, she often finds herself a trusted playmate to her son and this has informed her motivating work for children. Her ability to empathize with kids allows her to be part of their imaginary world and fly in a rocket launcher to the moon when she has to! In college, origami lessons and selling cards on Valentine’s Day and Eid al-Fitr, a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, were her first entrepreneurial experiences. These enabled her to realize her independence and own resources.
As an artist growing up, she observed that a lack of self-accountability is the root cause of failure in personal relations and was a very important trait of a balanced personality. This led her to work with children on self-accountability through storytelling and visual arts. She believes through storytelling, puppet shows and animation, children can learn while enjoying themselves. In her journey as a storyteller, she was chosen for a list of 25 extraordinary young women under the age of 25 by The Little Art website.
From childhood, Ammarah was a confident and intelligent child but academics became a struggle for her. In this struggle, her father was her guiding companion who helped her to learn the school curriculum and participate in extracurricular activities. Soon she started excelling in academics and would be part of all debates, poetry competitions, dramatics and sports. Her academic journey led her to achieve a Master’s degree in English and Literature and an M. Phil in Applied Linguistics with a specialization in storytelling. After college, she joined her sister’s event business, where she would conduct puppet shows for children. Seeing the great response from the audience she started to develop her organization Kaho Kahani.
She says there are four methods of learning; reading, writing, listening and speaking. Her content is designed to cater to all of these learning methods. Her puppet show with her original story “Gajruka” was the first project from her organization which practices her mother’s advice: “Don’t tell children what to do, rather show them”. This is why rather than researching self-accountable behaviors in Pakistani society, she chooses to write children’s stories around these challenging topics. Through her characters, she engages her audience to think about existential questions like their purpose in life, focusing on how to start thinking about the concept of self, contributing to society and learning about natural processes. Her most famous character is “ Gajruka” a baby carrot in the soil who talks through the process of germination, raising an internal debate on the purpose of life and helping an old carrot that is stuck in the ground, with the support from all other carrots, to pull him out. The book is titled “Gajrooka ka Sawaal” and is written in the style of a modern, Urdu fiction story set in Carrotopia, an underground world of carrots. Ammarah received financial and organizational support from the ALP team for this project.
Being passionate about storytelling, she soon realized she needed mentors in the field of literature and on accountable leadership. Other needs that she identified was developing knowledge on how to run a social enterprise and finding organizational endorsement to further support her work.
After joining the Accountability Incubator program, including bootcamps and monthly learning calls, she was then able to work on her business plan and reflect on her financial model. It was also her first experience of an incubation program and she was introduced to many entrepreneurial processes. Being part of the 2020 cohort, Ammarah was also introduced to the Accountability Lab Pakistan community and quickly found great mentors who provided guidance on developing her brand, providing emotional support, and helping her to organize and reflect upon her work plans. She says she also appreciates the opportunity to brainstorm new goals and strategies with participants and the ALP team. She was also grateful for the practical mix of in-person and virtual engagements, which gave her the space to fulfil her family duties.
To support Ammarah, please join her Facebook page Kaho Khani, and help her spread the word about her distribution network for the book.