HANDICRAFTS A SOURCE OF WOMEN'S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
Nov 05 - 11, 2007
Handicrafts not only serve the purpose of preserving the cultural heritage but also act as a source of income generation. According to an estimate about eighty different kinds of handicrafts are produced in Pakistan ranging from wood crafts, leather goods, brass, copper ware, marble products and embroideries to jewelry, carving, mirror work, camel and snake skin products, pottery and other handicrafts items. The sector received least attention from economic planners and remained almost neglected and somewhat mismanaged in Pakistan.
Despite having tremendous potential to boost economic growth, generate employment and reduce poverty, Pakistan is far behind in the handicrafts industry as compared to her South Asian neighbors. According to an estimate total value of production in handicrafts sector in India stands at $58 million. During the year 2001-02, Pakistan earned a foreign exchange of about $ 14 million by exporting its handicrafts. The target for the year 2002-03 from export income of handicrafts was fixed at about $20 million. There is a need to tap fully the handicrafts export potential of the country, which requires serious efforts, comprehensive planning and well coordinated strategies from public and private sectors in Pakistan.
Handicrafts sector can play an important role in women's economic empowerment, especially in rural Balochistan, where it is generally practiced at local family level. The art of handicrafts in Balochistan has survived since old ages without undergoing any scientific and industrial advancement. The handicraft work is common in the rural areas of the province, where females having learnt the handicraft skills are actively engaged in sewing them to raise a livelihood for their families.
UNIQUENESS & DIVERSITY
Balochistan enjoys uniqueness, quality and diversity in handicrafts sector. The province is known for unique and intricate production of handicrafts particularly the fine mirror work, embroidery, and marble work and fine quality precious stones. Baluchi embroidery is famous for its uniqueness and has the potential to capture local and international markets.
The embroidery of Mekran, mirror work of Quetta, Kalat, Khuzdar, Dera Bugti and Panjgor, Gold thread embroidery of Zhob and Sibi, leather work of Marri area, Lehri, Kalat and Turbat, Rugs and Namdas of Chaghi, Kalat, Ziarat and Pishin, Saddle bags of Bugti and Marri Tribal areas, Pottery of Dhadar, Bhag and Gulistan, perfume making of Kharan, Mekran and Kalat, Wood carving of Kalat, stone carving of Nushki, Dalbandin and Quetta, Shoe making of Marri and Bugti areas, woolen products of Mekran, Kharan and Chaghi, copper utensils of Loralai, jewelry of Mekran, Khuzdar, Pishin, Lorali and Nushki and beadwork of Marri tribal areas.
Handicrafts sector in Balochistan is in dire need of development, promotion and revival. The good quality handicrafts are gradually dying for lack of basic infrastructure in remote areas, high production costs, lack of skill development, absence of quality control regime, lack of design advisory centers and lack of proper education. There is a high need to capitalize the competencies and institutionalization of the sector in Balochistan. Women entrepreneurs in handicrafts sector can play the vital role in its promotion and development.
Handicrafts sector in Balochistan is mainly confronted with problems such as lack of support mechanism, marketing financial services, training, skill development and production diversification. Because of these problems some of the major handicrafts of the province are disappearing. Especially in rural Balochistan, it is generally practiced at local family level.
Rural areas of the province absolutely lack the basic infrastructure such as roads, transportation, water and electricity. Thus craftswomen in remote areas of the province do not have the conducive work environment enabling them to produce items at a more cost effective rate and help promote their work.
The tribal system also hinders its promotion, as women are not allowed to play their vital role in a free environment. Tribal restrictions confine the women to their houses restricting their free movement in the society and thus they remain unaware of the rapidly changing trends in designing and marketing of the products.
Another important constraint in promotion of handicrafts in the province is the lack of marketing facilities. The handicrafts produced in rural Balochistan do not fetch due price for the skilled woman, as the middlemen buy their products at low prices and make handsome profits by selling the products at higher prices. This exploitation of skilled women must stop. The women entrepreneurs in rural areas are compelled to sell their products to the middlemen for their severe financial constraints. They are absolutely unaware of unavailability of credit facilities, hence they lack the finance to expand their business.
A good quality raw material ensures quality production. The raw material is available in large cities, which make the craftswomen in remote regions of the province dependent upon the middleman. They are unable to get raw material by their own, as the access to raw material is too expensive for them. There is a need to establish small industries corporations, which would provide the quality raw material in their own areas at subsidized or cheaper rates.
Sustainable development in handicrafts sector requires a mushrooms growth of business crafts centers in rural Balochistan. These centers will not only help market the products but also provide expert advice on designing and packaging for exploiting the export potential.
Crafts industry in the province is severely affected by absence or dearth of vocational training centers, especially in rural areas. The women lack the training in designing, coloring and packaging methods to enhance the demand of their products in local and international markets. Skill development is the prime area that seeks attention of rulers for promotion of handicrafts and their export to foreign countries. The government should establish a score of vocational training centers in rural districts to save a lot of skills from vanishing.
Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) should play its due role in enhancing the women entrepreneurship to exploit fully the Pakistan's export potential in handicrafts sector. Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Bank may also have a significant part to play in financing the women owned business in rural areas of the province. SME Bank should approach the real and deserving women providing them credit facilities for promotion and expansion of their business.
Following the India's precedent, Pakistan should establish export promotion council for handicraft, as a non-profit earning organization. Such council would create necessary infrastructure as well as marketing and information facilities that would be available to both exporters and importers.