Dahi’s economic voyage: from poverty to empowerment

Dahi, residing in Kharoro Charan village in Umerkot, got married at a very young age as obliged by cultural norms. Tragically her husband died from a sudden illness twelve years ago, leaving her, at a young age of 34 and her 13-year-old daughter all on their own. Dahi is an artisan by skill, and earned a satisfactory income through home-based stitching and embroidery on order. She also worked in the fields during the harvesting season to earn extra money.

When Dahi’s only daughter was about to be wed, she was unable to afford the expenses of her dowry and wedding customs. As support, the village chief helped Dahi with paying for some of her daughter’s wedding expenses. This embarrassed Dahi immensely and not being able to fulfill her only daughter’s wishes made her feel disappointed in herself.

When Dahi heard of the vocational skills building center being set up in the village by Taanka , she instantly thought of getting enrolled. She gave the skills test, and considering her level of skills, compared to the low standard of living and lack of income, she was immediately selected as a participant in the center. Dahi exuberantly expressed, “The trainings at the centre really enhanced my stitching skills. I learnt various color variations including family colors and contemporary colors. The different kinds of stitches on various patterns brought out such diversity in the products, making each one unique in its own way.” Dahi enjoyed Muka emboidery on the shalwars and trousers. “Before this training, we artisans did not give quality much importance; there use to be dirty spots on the shirts and trousers, stitches were not so clean and neat and the material we used was not great as well. The training really emphasized on quality assurance and made us realize that the worth of our products would increase if we produced good quality handicrafts. We also got to learn about size and measurements and how to finish the products well for them to be presentable and sellable.”

During urban market exposure visits to Karachi, Dahi met a very well-known national designer, Najia. She was very happy to meet her. Najia, the designer, shared her experience of the growth of designed apparel worldwide and her experience of working with different designers in the fashion industry. She emphasized on developing reasonable quality products as quality management is key to contemporary buyers now. Talking to Dahi, Najia assured her and other fellow artisans to be given bulk orders if the quality and neatness of their hand-made products is well maintained.

After meeting Najia, Dahi was very excited to start working on the cushion covers ordered by Najia’s design label. “I want to please Najia, as she is a well-known designer, and I can learn from her work a lot in order to improve my designing skills and become like her one day.” Dahi has been earning well since she became part of the center. She now has sufficient money to easily buy clothes, household items and other accessories for herself and particularly for her daughter.

Artisans from Umerkot, including Dahi, visited shops named, Khazana and Saba Corner, retailing a large variety of Pakistani handicrafts, in a mall in Karachi. Dahi was amazed to see the diverse products made by women in rural areas like herself. “I never realized up that the value of our handicrafts is this high in the market. I can see that buyers in the city love to wear traditional apparel and jewelry these days.”

To further her urban market exposure, Dahi, among other artisans took part and attended the Crafts Festival (organized and supported by Taankaⁱ and CKU) held in Dolmen Mall Clifton, Karachi in November, 2017. Dahi recalled joyfully, “There were foreign buyers who were mesmerized to see the handicrafts made by us. They even took pictures with us as they really liked our traditional dresses. Getting such recognition from different buyers is a source of encouragement and motivation for us to grow further in our skills and take our handicrafts to buyers outside of Pakistan as well.”

Dahi further expressed that this platform is promoting change in attitudes and social behavior and helping communities in identifying sustainable opportunities and development solutions that are within their reach.