Humanitarian organisations have initiated a number of projects across the country to empower women. However, ask any social worker and they will admit that the most difficult aspect of these initiatives is mobilizing rural women to work outside their homes.
Taking on the challenge, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in collaboration with Trust for History Art and Architecture, Pakistan (THAAP) managed to bring a few such women to display handmade cultural products at a crafts exhibition organised at the Serena Hotel on Tuesday.
“The most difficult part is bringing them here, especially during this season when as all hands are needed for harvesting,” said Shajia Azam, a designer and training specialist at THAAP. The one-day exhibit was part of the ONE UN project, titled “Promotion of cultural industries for poverty alleviation in Bahawalpur”.
The displays consisted of various embroidery pieces such as pit loom fabrics, ralli patchwork quilts and tie-dye chunari. The fabrics ranged from bright colours such as pink, blue and red to more subtle ones such as beige, cream and light brown. With their fine needlework, one could easily notice the detailing and quality of thread on each piece.
Though the embroidered fabrics received a lot of appreciation, the hand made baskets, embroidered laptop covers and colourful papier-mâché such as “Ghugu ghoras” that garnered most of the attention. Traditionally made in Bahawalpur, Ghugu ghoras are horse-shaped decoration pieces made with colourful pieces of paper and sticks and stand about two feet tall.
However, in a bid to stray away from the norm, the trainers encouraged the women to make other animals as well, hence the funky peacocks, camels, elephants and even reindeers.
Exhibiting little hand-made paper birds and Christmas ornaments for the diplomatic community was a smart move by the rural craftswomen. “[The paper birds] and other accessories are my most different work to date, but I understand that I have to be creative according to the demand of the market,” Nasreen Tariq, a mother of two who had travelled from Bahawalpur for the exhibition.
“We kept our methods the same but worked on enhancing the quality of products,” said Azam. However, during the training we noticed that some women needed to improve their quality of work and time management, she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2012.