Jameela Jakhro is a 61 year old woman from Mithoo Khan Jahhro Village in Bijora Union Council, Sindh, Pakistan. She is supporting a household of six by utilizing her skill of handicrafts, mainly embroidery, which was passed down from her mother-in-law early in her marriage. Her husband, Abdul Jabbar, is elderly and often suffers from fever; he cannot work in the fields as hard as required to meet their family’s financial and nutritional needs. Jameela states that “If I would not have been interested to get this skill of handicraft then maybe I would not be able to support my family in this expensive era, but by God’s grace my mother-in-law trained me and I devoted much time in my handicraft. That is why today I am supporting my family. Unfortunately, my husband and I are not aware of the market demands of this product and we do not know how we can sell it in the market.” The handicrafts created by Jameela are difficult to make and expensive to buy, but without broader market linkages Jameela is unable to make the profit she deserves from her craft. Jameela is aware of the potential profit earned from her craft, “Just due to lack of awareness my expensive skill is hidden on village level. Only those who come to know about my skill come to see.” She continues, “If CWS-P/A will support me to reach this product on market level, then I may earn much more and then I will be able to fully support my family.”
Many women within· Bijora Union Council suffer the same fate as Jameela. While they may have some level of skill in producing a craft, their products are either not up to market quality, not meeting a specific market demand, or they simply do not have the connections to sell their products beyond their villages. Additionally, socio-economic conditions are extremely low which has only been worsened by the floods of 2010 and 2011 which these villages were deeply affected by. Together with Christian Aid, CWS-P/A aims to meet the needs of the women residing in Bijora Union Council by offering vocational training courses to hone old skills while learning new and market-relevant skills. Women’s enterprises will be formed in order to train the women on financial reporting, marketing and to build support networks that lessen the cost of expanding into broader markets and producing on a larger scale. In addition, the vocational centers will run in conjunction with literacy centers. Women will simultaneously be honing their crafts while learning to read and write. CWS-P/A ·believes an important part of women’s empowerment and success is through educational empowerment, giving the women an opportunity to market and record keep for their own businesses. The vocation and literacy centers are projected to begin in March 2013.
While Jameela has not yet been able to reap the full reward of her skills, she believes it is of the utmost importance to share her skills with others and for other women to gain expertise in different handicrafts. In the coming months, Jameela will finally be given a chance to share her craft with a wider market and gain the skills necessary to make this a sustainable business. This will give her the financial boost necessary to care for her family while continuing to set an example to the other women taking part in the vocation skills training activities. She says, “I suggest that others get technical skills such as sewing or embroidery because a skilled person will die but their skills will remain in the world forever.”