In Pakistan, where few opportunities are available to women to build their self-reliance, finding self-confidence, established women in rural communities is rare.
Salma Raheem, a master-embellisher from remote Dera Jatta in Bahawalpur, always dreamt of escaping poverty and inspiring women around her to do more with their lives by developing their skills.
After completing a diploma course at a vocational training center of the ILO (International Labour Organization), Salma went door to door in her village to recruit women and form a small team of embellishers who she trained at her home. "Training is essential to polish any skill, and in this business only practice improves how detail-oriented and creative you are," says Salma.
Salma was introduced to a fashion designer from Karachi who guided her on developing her skills further and breaking into urban markets. Only 8 months after it began, Zardozi Bridal Wear employs over 80 women from surrounding villages and hopes to grow to 200 in 2012.
Zardozi offers its employees transportation services to and from the training facility which is in a secure part of town, adding to the great working environment. "I hope this business provides women with a chance to earn a livelihood and improve their lives and self-esteem by showing them how much they are capable of. I earn enough money to support my family and meet all my overheads,” she says.
In lieu of her services to the community, Salma recently received the Shell Tameer Award Social Award. She was over joyed on her nomination. “I went all the way to Karachi with other girls from my community and displayed the Zardozi work at the Shell Tameer Competition Awards 2012. I got a chance to showcase the art of my village and the efforts of all the artisans. Over a 1000 people visited throughout the day. I witnessed what it feels like to be free and to be empowered. People visited my stall and showed a lot of interest in our work. I was over excited when the media came wanting to interview me and talk to me about my skills. It is indeed because of ILO and industry experts like Shaiyanne who have benefitted me and other girls in our village to come out of our poverty.”
“The British High Commissioner also visited and cherished our work. He was the one to award me the certificate. I was thrilled when my name was called out”. Smiled Salma
A pretty girl handed me a file and said the British Council would like to sponsor me for training in UK on leadership and entrepreneurial skills. I was so impressed with the way she spoke. I thought what an opportunity! May be Ill become like her; confident and ready to venture the world. And I will! With the support of my parents, my family, my community and enablers like ILO, Shaiyanne and British Council. “Salma said determinately.
Salma is now being invited to Islamabad to sit through an English language course so that she is prepared when she goes to UK. She is very keen to see the capital city. “I have been to the old capital of Pakistan (Karachi) now I am ready to go to the new one. I have heard it’s all green and one can see the mountains right in front! “
Salma is ready to explore the world. With the increased awareness, on the importance of skills development and employment promotion, the ILO along with its public and private partners is spreading, it is very likely that we will soon see more and more Pakistani women entering the formal work stream and their contribution will be recognized in the national economy.
For now Zardozi has begun receiving orders from designers across the country. And Derra Jattan has been recognised as a fashion brand. I hope you will visit them soon, I know I am!
Promoting Gender Equality for Decent Employment- (A CIDA funded project of the ILO)
International Labour Organization