Marvi’s new beginning
“Acquiring skills at the vocational center has changed my life and given it a new purpose,” expressed Marvi, a 40-year-old accomplished artisan from Sindh. Marvi’s life took a positive turn when Taankaⁱ established a vocational and adult literacy center for women in Marvi’s residual village, Kando Megwar in the Umerkot district of Sindh, Pakistan. Parents to six children, Marvi and her husband, Panthi, struggled to make ends meet with their menial incomes. Panthi works in a flourmill, earning a monthly income of PKR 9,000, while their two elder sons, both of whom are married, earn a collective income of PKR 8500 a month. They earn a living through selling vegetables and working in a shop. Panthi and Marvi’s four younger children go to school.
Including Marvi’s father-in-law, the household comprises of eleven family members, each of whom have to be fed and provided all basic necessities within a tight monthly income. After Marvi’s mother-in-law passed away, an additional responsibility was passed on to her – gift giving. Her mother-in-law used to give occasional gifts to her children and their families. With Marvi being the eldest daughter-in-law, it was up to her to continue the gracious tradition.
“Every month, we have to spend carefully in order to make ends meet. If we run out of flour and do not have the money to buy more, then we have to borrow it from neighbors or relatives,” shared Marvi. Since the family had a small income and many expenses, they had no extra money to save. When unanticipated expenses, such as health care, arose, the family had to ask for loans from relatives and neighbors.
Marvi’s days were chock-full with fulfilling her daily responsibilities of taking care of her children, feeding the cattle, and working in the fields during harvest season. However, whenever Marvi could spare a few moments of free time she would spend it sewing quilts, which she would sell to help the family earn some extra money. Marvi’s stitching and embroidery was limited to the running stitch, so she only produced simple and basic products.
Upon hearing of the Vocational Centre, being set up by Taanka in her village in early 2017 from the President of their village Steering Committee, Chacha Kando, Marvi became excited and decided to take the assessment test to be part of the classes. She was soon selected.
Chacha Kando told his fellow community members about the new vocational center and why it was being established. He explained to them that it aimed to develop women’s stitching and embroidery skills and teach them basic education and gender related lessons. Marvi, among many other women, were happy to hear of this and were eager to be a part of such a rich learning process. “One of the greatest achievements for me was to write my name. Because I was illiterate, I did not know how to write my name. However, now I am able to not only write my name, but I can also read the names and expiry dates of medicines I give my children.”
Marvi has also been attending the gender sessions at the vocation center. Initially, the villagers rarely sent their daughters to school and married them off at an early age. However, as a result of the gender awareness sessions, many young girls of Kando Megwar are now attending school. “My sons got married when they were between 19-20 years old. That was insensible of us. Now for our younger children we will wait till they are older and have completed their education and the boys are settled enough to support their own families to marry them off.”
The gender sessions have also resulted in the women of Kando Megwar having greater independence and mobility. Before the establishment of the vocational center, their husbands always accompanied them to the hospital or anywhere outside the village vicinity. After the men and women of the community attended the gender sessions, the women of the village now travel to the hospital in groups of two or three if their children are unwell and their husbands allow this. Consequently, women do not have to wait for their husbands to accompany them in order to receive treatment for themselves or their children.
Marvi feels very positively about her future. She is working hard on further enhancing her skills and is a dedicated artisan. She firmly believes she will keep on receiving more and more orders for her handcrafted products. At the same time, Marvi aspires to further improve her skills and make new and fashionable products to be able to support her family when needed. As an artisan, she has worked on various products, including table runners, trousers, shirts, cushion covers, book covers, and scarves. Marvi receives a stipend of PKR 1,600 from the center, and only she has control over this money. Before working at the center, Marvi was entirely dependent on her husband. Her husband and sons would buy her and her daughters clothes of their choice from the market, and they would have no choice but to wear them whether or not they liked the colors or designs.
With money of her own, Marvi recently went to the market to shop for her own clothes. This was something new and exciting for her and her daughters. She is now able to buy more clothes for her children which has made them very happy, as they can now change clothes more often, rather than wear the same clothes again and again.
Marvi and Panthi’s children could rarely afford to eat or buy snacks before as they never had an extra penny to buy it. With her own money, Marvi can now treat her children occasionally by buying them sweets or crisps. She has also bought them new books, stationery, and school uniforms.
Before joining the vocational centre and being part of Taanka, the women of Kando village could never even dream of having such independence. These artisans can now earn money for their families without toiling endless hours in the fields under the scorching sun. “Now, we sit in the cool shade and work easily. This year, I did not pick a single bud of cotton, nor did I work in the fields at all. I have only worked in the center. These better working conditions have improved my health, and I am now more energetic and active,” shared a very content, Marvi.