KARACHI: Speakers at a function on Tuesday said that the dying traditional arts and crafts of Tharparkar – embroidery and block printing – would be revived under a project by training artisans and establishing links between them and the markets, enabling them to progress in a sustainable manner.
They were speaking at the launch of the Rs29 million 18-month project ‘Revival of traditional crafts in Tharparkar’ to be funded by the USAID and implemented by the Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP) – an NGO working in the arid zones of Sindh, particularly Tharparkar.
The donors who had to come from Islamabad, however, could not attend the ceremony, which had already been rescheduled once earlier also due to the law and order situation in the city.
Bhagwani Rathore of Thardeep said around 1,200 artisans would be trained from 12 villages located in six union councils of two talukas – Mithi and Diplo – in Tharparkar district. After the training, material and designs would be provided to them and then finished products would be taken from them and they would be paid fair wages.
She said skill enhancement training would also be given to them besides teaching them marketing techniques, getting finances for business expansion, etc. She said currently the middleman, who purchased the products from the artisans at their doorsteps and sold it in the urban centres, ate up all the profit and in that way artisans and urban consumers both suffered – artisans got less money for their work and urban customers ended up paying more.
She said under the project artisans would be paid better wages and urban customers would pay relatively less for the products. The profit thus earned by the marketing would be shared – one part would go in a fund for further expansion of the operations, and the other part would be distributed among the artisans.
Molaan Bai, an artisan based in Mithirio Bhatti village in Tharparkar, some 400 kilometres from Karachi, said the interest of women artisans in the handicrafts had declined as the middleman who purchased the products paid very little to them, and though the artisans knew that their products were sold at a high rate in cities, they could not do anything about it as they lacked means to take their products to the market.
Zulfiqar Shah of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research said he belonged to Hala, a small town famous for its handicrafts, and had seen artisans working on handicrafts during his school days, but over the years the quality of such arts and crafts had declined. He said most products being sold there now were not handicrafts but were manufactured in urban centres in factories and artisans had also vanished. He said he hoped that someone would work to revive that art form also.
Zafar Junejo of the TRDP said the NGO worked in the arid zone of Tharparkar, Jamshoro, etc. He said in those areas people depended mostly on rain-fed agriculture and livestock, while women were involved in handicrafts and supplemented family earnings.
He said he hoped the project would help them sharpen their skills and establish links between the artisans and the markets and improve their lifestyle.
Shirin Narejo, Sattar Sheikh, Sajjad Shah and others also spoke.