Similar to many other Swati women, the extended conflict in the Peshawar region left Farida with nothing but embroidery skills to earn livelihood.
Thankful to her proficiency in this traditional art, the 40-year-old currently works with Lasoona, an NGO budding handicraft skills of local women and promoting their work, including Swati embroidered shawls.
A number of such women from Swat also poured their hearts out about the crisis they faced even after the conflict was over, as handicrafts made by skilled women were put on display at Women Business Development Centre.
Ms. Farida told that she only got education up to intermediate but after about 22 years of her life as a housewife, she was forced to go out and work with an NGO for food and academics of her two children.
She said there was an elderly diabetic woman in Qamber village whose two sons were killed on suspicion of assisting Taliban and that she earned Rs20 per chaddar (shawl) for needlework and it paid for her medicine.
Shama, another skillful woman from Swat, said conflict had badly affected handicrafts business in Swat as tourists stopped coming to the valley and buying their handicrafts. The linkages of the women making handicrafts and those promoting it were also broken but now things are humanizing and women are starting to work again to earn livelihood for their families.
Seema Ajmal from Mardan district, who had also displayed her handicrafts at the crafts bazaar, said the women had skills and enthusiasm to utilise their skills for income generation but she lacked support from family and the society.
According to her, women hesitate to approach markets for selling or marketing their products. “The customs and traditions are a big hurdle in a businesswoman or skilled woman’s way to progress.
Women, who showed up at the bazaar, which was inaugurated on Wednesday, said buyers did not trust women entrepreneurs. They said the government support was needed to provide them with exposure and marketing skills.
Smeda chief in Peshawar Javed Khattak said his organization was trying to build up linkages of women entrepreneurs and had planned their visits for exposure. He said WBDCs were important in networking of skilled women. WDBCs have been proposed for DI Khan and Hazara. He said WBDC in Peshawar was trying to polish the skills of the women making handicrafts. SMEDA and Home Economics College Peshawar has signed an MoU to train skilled women in color and thread-selection, designs, choice of cloth, designing and making of gems jewelry so that their products or handicrafts could be refined and saleable in the market, Mr. Khattak said.
Semda chief executive Naseem Khokar launched the crafts bazaar and asked details from stallholders about handicrafts and about the areas in which they needed help.
The event will continue until Saturday May 12.