SWAT: Once a thriving industry of handicraft, Swat has attracted global attention for the finesse of products emerging from it. Women worked alongside men, helping them earn livelihoods for their families. They worked mainly from home, by stitching, sewing and handmade embroidery.
But the social fabric of the valley was badly damaged by terrorism in 2007. The situation got worse when the devastating flood wrecked havoc in the entire valley. Social and financial sectors were paralysed and thousands of people became jobless.
To restore livelihoods of the flood and militancy-affected people of Swat, Dir and Malakand Agency, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with Lasoona, Society for Human and Natural Resources Development, initiated a project activity under the title “USAID Pakistan Entrepreneurs Malakand Livelihoods Recovery Project” to train 300 sale agents and 10,000 women embellishers and to further link them with diversified markets for their products.
“The activity has in-depth impact to revive and uplift the economy of the flood and militancy-affected communities through long-term, value chain promotion,” said Lasoona Executive Director Azam Khan, adding that the activity is improving design and quality of the local embroidery. It is expected that at least 50% income of the women embellishers will be increased.
Amina, 32 and a resident of Sangota village, is one of the beneficiaries of the scheme. She is the only breadwinner of her large family, after her brother was killed during militancy. She used to embellish shawls, cushions and bed sheets but her only income source was badly affected.
“I felt helpless, no one bought my products. Often, we would spend a day or two in hunger,” Amina told The Express Tribune. However, all of that changed when she was selected as a female sales agent (FSA) of women embellisher group for market linkages.
Amina now works as a female sale agent for her women embellisher group and earns a respectable livelihood.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2012.