CHITRAL: Jewellery made from precious stones has been a source of self-employment for the youths of Garam Chashma over the years thanks to easy availability of raw material, training facilities and cheap electricity.
Former Khosh tehsil council member Mohammad Khan told Dawn that the art was absorbing a large number of jobless youth, especially women.
He said the Lot Koh valley had been the centre of gem stones and semi-precious stones due to its proximity with the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan, while the local mountains also had sizeable deposits of the mineral wealth.
Mr Khan said jewellery making was not quite new in the valley as local artists in the olden days carried out carving of gem stones and marble pieces to give them shape of jewels using the implements, which are obsolete now.
The former councillor said availability of cheap electricity from the hydropower house in Mogh village had acted as a catalyst as the tools and apparatus used in carving and faceting processes of gemstones and marbles consumed electricity in large amounts.
He said jewellery items like necklaces, beads and bracelets were abundantly available in local shops, attracting attention of tourists visiting the area.
He said the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme had sent a group of youth, including women, to Gilgit in 2014 to get training as artisans. These trained men and women then established a gems and jewellery centre in Garam Chashma as a venture of youth self-employment, he added.
Fauzia Gul, one of the founders of the centre, said all the members of the batch trained in Gilgit acted as master trainers, producing hundreds of skilled workers in the course of time.
She said jewellery making involved cutting, faceting, carving and polishing, by different groups trained in each field.
Ms Gul said the artisans were now receiving orders from Dubai and other foreign cities.
“The jewellery made out of gemstones is of both of quantity and quality,” she said.
Ms Gul added that the Aga Khan Programme had also provided the artisans with a chance of displaying their products in the exhibitions at national level where they got recognition due to the quality of the products.
She said by replicating the sector in other valleys of Chitral the rate of unemployment among youth, especially women, could be reduced to a great extent.
Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2021