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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Embroidery with cuffed hands: Bravery and resilience of Thari Women

The struggle of women in urban areas is different from those who are living in rural areas. Nevertheless, both are embroidering the economy of a country with their cuffed hands. It is a dream of women in rural areas to enjoy the comforts of life including driving vehicles, air conditioners or using clean drinking water from their kitchen tap.

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Today, women need to work abreast with men for a glorious future, interminable prosperity, and bounty of joys. Gender equality has always remained inevitable for women’s empowerment. While the capacity building of women is part and parcel of the development of nations, support and encouragement to women will enhance their confidence in themselves. Women have been demanding their rights for a long. However, the debate of equality or equity within the context of gender empowerment is a great concern. There is a suppressed group within the oppressed group.

The struggle of women in urban areas is different from those who are living in rural areas. Nevertheless, both are embroidering the economy of a country with their cuffed hands. It is a dream of women in rural areas to enjoy the comforts of life including driving vehicles, air conditioners or using clean drinking water from their kitchen tap. Though some women are blessed with physical comfort, many are challenged by emotional comfort, carrying a responsibility for the head to design décor and embellish the canvas of their lives for survival.

Read more: Ehsaas to establish a Women Empowerment Center in South Waziristan

The never-ending struggles of a women’s life

In this context, the women in Thar are the epitome of resilience, living in a drought land where flora and fauna are struggling to have clean water is a life challenging task. Over the past few years, Thar is being depicted as a place where children are dying; women are beaten to death or forcefully converted to other religions and there is no concept of women empowerment. However, the development in infrastructure is a ray of hope which seems to lead Thar towards development.

The life of women in Thar has always been tough but some efforts lead to devastation and some to development. Now women in Thar get to know the path to development which would have a trickledown effect on their economy, health sector, and social cohesion. In their limited capacity, limited resources, and limited exposure they are surmounting all the social and cultural obstacles.

A little step towards development in infrastructure proved to be a big step towards women’s empowerment at Thar. Thar coal power project, part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is developed by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company and China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC).  The project aims at generating power through the coal reserves of Tharparkar and contributes to the country’s energy efficiency.  General Manager CSR, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Mr. Naseer Memon while talking about the potential of Thar coal said; “If all goes well, it can produce 5000 Mega Watt energy for at least 50 years”.  He appreciated the efforts of women who are working on this project despite having all kinds of deprivation and abject poverty.

The well-constructed road to Thar is one of the best highways of Sindh, proved to be a life-changing opportunity for people living there. From no road connectivity to road connectivity, is a transitional phase towards the development of Thar. With developed roads and transport systems, women in Thar will be able to find better employment opportunities. This idea was considered an alien concept a few decades back. However, the Thar coal power project not only brought employment opportunities in the region but also a source of women empowerment in Thar.

Read more: Pakistani culture vs Women empowerment: Should Aurat March be held?

Thari women are making history by driving a dump truck in coal mines

For example, some 25 women drivers are hired for that purpose which is a paragon of strength. The weight of an empty dump truck is 18 tons, but the female drivers are not finding it difficult anymore to control it. Considering the cultural norms and values of Thar, women are working in morning shift only. They are getting 30,000 to 35,000 PKR per month against the daily morning shift of 8 hours.

Singhara bai is working in the Thar coal power project for the last 4 years and is more than satisfied with the job and facilities she is receiving during jobs hours. According to her views, she is happily working here and making her own money.

These women are not only provided with a comfortable environment to work but are also receiving proper lunch and refreshments also. The conservative mindset of people residing in Thar is also changing as females are working and now the power of decision-making is also shifting from men to women. They interact and work in a safe and secure environment from where they learn from other people and learn to normalize working with females.

Jimi is also associated with this project; she belongs to Mithi and is a mother of 3 children. Being a dump truck driver, she is happy as she can now earn for the better future of her children.

Thar is very rich in culture when it comes to embroidery, cuisine, and jewelry. With the fine road connectivity to Thar, it becomes easy for women artisans there to showcase their talent and transport it to other cities in less time. The handmade rilli, rugs, and shawls are a source of tourist attraction. The wedding season is considered as a peak season for the artisans due to the huge demand for embroidered dresses and rilli.

Desert Jeep Rally is an event in which racers from across Pakistan take part is also a very supportive event for local female artisans of Thar. The ones, who are not having access to other cities, sell their handmade stuff to the tourists who happily shop for different items as a souvenir for others. Hunters during their visit to Thar for hunting migratory birds also buy the handmade stuff.

Local artisans; it is a positive trend in terms of revenue generation and cultural preservation. Recently the needlework embroidery of Thari women has reached the Middle East and now they are receiving regular orders from the Royals as well. The special pickle Thari women make out of Lotus flower is also of great attraction for the tourists.

Read more: A trustworthy beauty product with a message of women empowerment

The road connectivity is making it easy for the industrialists of metropolitan areas to work with the local Thari women and project their talent in other cities as well. The dry sandy desert of Thar is turning into a hub of development. Although it is on its initial stage people in Thar despite utilizing so many opportunities are striving for basic needs. However, it is the start from the scratch, the incubation period development is tiresome but worth working for.


Written by: Mahnoor Qureshi

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at mahnoorqureshi06@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.