A young artisan’s road to success
Limited access to health care and education are among the many challenges rural women in Pakistan face. These are further aggravated by food insecurity, socio economic instability and unexpected disasters. Empowering these women is therefore key, not only to the well-being of individual women, but also for the welfare of entire families and rural communities.
Seventeen-year-old Sarwat, belongs to Abdullah Ghoto village in Thatta, Sindh, lives with her parents and seven siblings; three brothers and four sisters. “My family depends financially on my brothers’ incomes who work on road maintenance; they receive their wages on a weekly basis which was has not been enough for a family as big as ours. It became difficult to make ends meet.”
In late 2016, Sarwat took part in adult literacy and skill development training sessions offered by Taanka* in her village. Sarwat was recognized for her dedication and proactive participation during the sessions. Through the trainings, her knowledge on cultural colors, family colors and different kinds of stitches like moti stitch, lazy daisy, makri stitch, fridge billion and many others was enhanced. “Now I have improved stitching skills and the products I make are of a better quality with good finishing. I have learnt to make necklaces which I had not tried making before. I make them so well that I have received separate orders for those too.” Since the trainings, Sarwat has received orders for many products including necklaces and lehnga patti.
Sarwat recalls how ill her mother was when she received her first ever payment from Taanka. It was a true blessing for her in a way, as she was able to provide better healthcare to her mother through her own earning. She did not need to plead for financial support from relatives or neighbors. “We have faced difficult times when we did not have money to pay for our healthcare. We had to borrow money from relatives or neighbors for doctor visits and to purchase medicine. This opportunity at the training centre is a blessing for our family. We are now in a position to earn a better and respectable livelihood.” Sarwat elatedly added that with the timely treatment of her mother, she still had some money left to purchase clothes and accessories for her family and herself for Eid festivities.
Poverty and the reality of limited job opportunities for girls to contribute to household income, particularly in rural communities are among the primary motivations for early child marriages. Families with girls must choose between living in deep poverty or getting rid of the economic burden of supporting their young daughters. “In our village the theater group performed a play on early child marriages. Early child marriage was a common tradition found in most villages in the interior villages. The performance brought in a positive change in the mind-sets of the elders residing in the village. They now support young girls and encourage them to study further and enhance their talents to have a bright and happy future,” added Sarwat.
Sarwat also shared her family’s experience of the devastating floods in 2010 that brought massive destruction to villages in rural Sindh. Though Sarwat was much younger then but she clearly remembers the cries of families who lost almost everything in those floods, including land, homes and livestock. “We did not know how to mitigate the risks and damage caused by disasters at that time (2010). We migrated to other nearby places for life protection. The money I earn from orders is also saved for emergency purpose.”
“This opportunity of being part of Taanka has taught me a lot, imparted me with valuable skills and has put me on the path to success in life. I also registered for my domicile for the continuation of my studies as well. I now work and study to build an educated and secure future for my family and myself. I am very happy with what I am doing today.”