When all symbols of progressive forces had been crushed by the Taliban in the once serene valley of Swat, Mussarat Ahmad Zeb stepped up and fought for the rights of women in the area.
“It was the middle of 2007 when I came to Swat from Islamabad.
It was a bleak time and the insurgency had an immense impact on women - they were traumatised and distressed,” Zeb said in an interview with The Express Tribune.
She set up a vocational training centre by the name of ‘Ladore’ where the women could gain skills as well as therapy. The centre is named after a herb found in Swat valley.
“I did not want to give the militancy-affected women just money, so a platform was created to provide them an opportunity to gather vocational skills,” she said.
“Initially the women were reclusive and introverted, but now we all have a good time while we work.”
“I am not only training women but also reviving the rich cultural heritage of Swat Valley,” she said.
“This isn’t mere embroidery. Every flower in Swati embroidery carries a story,” she added.
Zeb criticised the Benazir Income Support Programme, a scheme initiated by the present government.
“They are snatching away [the women’s] dignity by offering Rs1000 every month. If I was in charge of the programme, I would never give money without work,” she said.
Zeb said she plans to set up her own looms in Swat in the future.
She aims to target the international markets and urged the government to set up a platform for doing so.
“I am bringing back our heritage and showing to the world that we have talent and dignity. We are peaceful and brave people.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2011.
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