Meet Shenaz Haveliwala, an entrepreneur and artist who's battling epilepsy like a pro!

Mishkaat Imrani
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Meet Shenaz Haveliwala, an entrepreneur and artist who's battling epilepsy like a pro!

From losing all her hopes after getting diagnosed with epilepsy to becoming the founder of two start-ups and giving jobs to people with epilepsy, Shenaz Haveliwala is truly an inspiration. 

It was one random day when Shenaz Haveliwala got her very first seizure during her second year of graduation. Everything was so sudden and traumatic that she doesn't even remember how it all started. All she can recall now is that she found herself in an ICU that day, surrounded by equipment and pipes. But what happened next was even worse. She had to quit her studies and was left hopeless in her home. She wasn't allowed to go outside as any loud noise would cause seizures. For the next 5 to 6 years, she stayed at home, and her condition did not improve.


"For the first two years, I used to get seizures once or twice every single day. My parents were also shattered because they would see my condition during the attacks and would worry a lot. It was terrible because I was very young and missed out on everything that a normal 19-year-old teenager gets to do. And so I used to curse my life", shared Shenaz.

After two years, Shenaz underwent surgery, and things started looking a little positive. She began painting as she was always into art and ended up selling one of her artworks, too. " I donated the amount to an NGO which was working for people with epilepsy and felt great. After a while, I joined the same NGO and started teaching basic maths and English to the kids there", she mentioned.

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Shenaz on the cover page of the international magazine of IBE

Shenaz continued teaching for the next 7 years and was even awarded 'The Outstanding Person with Epilepsy' by the International Epilepsy Association in 2014 for her efforts. " I was invited to Singapore and met many amazing people who were also fighting with epilepsy. Their battles were heroic, and I feel honoured to have known them", she said.

Finding two businesses and helping others

This achievement greatly motivated Shenaz; now, she was up for new adventures. She completed her bachelor's and masters in Commerce. Later she converted her father's empty office into a co-working space and named it SOBO Connect. She was even seen on BBC and was invited as a chief guest in her college to guide students about entrepreneurship. In 2017, Shenaz founded her cloud kitchen Le Garden and started hiring people with epilepsy to help them financially.

Shenaz Haveliwala

The 'Outstanding person with epilepsy 2014' awarded in Singapore

" But unfortunately, it did not work out. I hired some of my NGO students, and they were delighted with the job. But they ended up quitting because their parents thought that the money I gave them was less and a waste of time", she told Local Samosa. But Shenaz hasn't given up and is still looking for people to join her. She even takes the guarantee to take care of them during the seizure and is open to any kind of support.

The stigma around epilepsy and more

Even though epilepsy is a very common disease, a lot of stigmas are still associated with it. " It is just like any other disease and doesn't spread with touch. It's sad how people in our society keep the patients caged at home and do not talk about it. There's also this group of people that connects epilepsy with black magic and forces the patient to smell shoes or onions", she said.

Shenaz Haveliwala

Shenaz's painting that was sent to San Francisco Gray Matter museum, titled 'alone' loneliness a child feels when left out

It's also sad that many of us are unaware of what happens during a seizure and have no idea what to do to help the person. " Two weeks back, I was in a parlour getting my waxing done and suddenly got a seizure attack. The girl who was there with me got so terrified that her face turned completely white". And it's true not many of us know what to do, so before saying goodbye, we asked Shenaz what should be done if someone is having a seizure in front of us, and here's what she said.

Shenaz Haveliwala

Shenaz at the IEC in Bangkok in 2019 as the chief guest

"First of all, please remain calm, don't create a scene and panic because the seizure doesn't last for more than 5-10 minutes. Don't touch them or control the jerking and put something below their neck. If they have glasses on, remove them and clean their surrounding from any sharp or any other object that can be harmful. Once it is over, ask if they need water or help them contact their family", said Shenaz.

Shenaz is currently learning German and has recently finished her Arabic calligraphy course. She is also associated with an NGO that works for people with epilepsy and is supporting kids with this neurological disease by helping conduct workshops and arranging seminars for them.

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