Handcuffed Hands Embroidery: Bravery and Resilience of Thari Women

Today, women must work together with men for a glorious future, endless prosperity and an abundance of joy. Gender equality has always remained essential for the empowerment of women. While empowering women is an integral part of the development of nations, supporting and encouraging women will build their self-confidence. Women have been demanding their rights for a long time. However, the debate over equality or equity in the context of women’s empowerment is of great concern. There is an oppressed group within the oppressed group.

The struggle of women in urban areas is different from those living in rural areas. Nevertheless, both embroider the economy of a country with their cuffed hands. It is a dream for women in rural areas to enjoy the comforts of life, including driving vehicles, air conditioners or using drinking water from their kitchen faucet. Although some women are blessed with physical comfort, many are challenged by emotional comfort, bearing the responsibility of the head to design a setting and beautify the canvas of their lives for their survival.

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The endless struggles of a woman’s life

In this context, Thar women are the epitome of resilience, living in an arid land where flora and fauna struggle to get drinking water is a difficult task. In recent years, Thar has been portrayed as a place where children die; women are beaten to death or forcibly converted to other religions and there is no concept of female empowerment. However, infrastructure development is a beacon of hope that seems to be leading the Thar towards development.

The life of women in the Thar has always hard, but some efforts lead to devastation and others to development. Now, Thar women are getting to know the path of development, which would have a ripple effect on their economy, health sector and social cohesion. In their limited capacity, limited resources and limited exposure, they overcome all social and cultural barriers.

A small step towards infrastructure development has proven to be a big step towards empowering women in Thar. The Thar Coal Power Project, which is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is being developed by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company and China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC). The project aims to generate electricity from Tharparkar’s coal reserves and contributes to the country’s energy efficiency. CSR Managing Director, Sindh Engro Coal Mining, Mr. Naseer Memon while talking about the potential of Thar Coal, said; “If all goes well, it can produce 5,000 megawatts of power for at least 50 years.” He appreciated the efforts of the women working on this project despite all kinds of deprivation and abject poverty.

The well constructed road to Thar is one of the best highways in Sindh, proved to be a life changing opportunity for the people living there. From no road connectivity to road connectivity, is a transition phase towards the development of the Thar. With developed roads and transport systems, women in Thar will be able to find better job opportunities. This idea was considered a foreign concept a few decades ago. However, the Thar Coal Power Project has not only created employment opportunities in the region but also a source of empowerment for women in the Thar.

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Thari women make history driving dump truck in coal mines

For example, some 25 female drivers are hired for this purpose, which is a paragon of strength. The weight of an empty dump truck is 18 tons, but female drivers no longer struggle to control it. Given the cultural norms and values ​​of Thar, women only work in the morning. They receive between 30,000 and 35,000 PKR per month against the daily 8 hour morning shift.

Singhara bai has been working in the Thar Coal Power Project for 4 years and is more than satisfied with the work and facilities she receives during working hours. According to her opinions, she is happy to work here and earn her own money.

These women are not only provided with a comfortable environment in which to work, but are also provided with appropriate lunch and refreshments. The conservative mindset of the people residing in Thar is also changing as women work and decision-making power shifts from men to women as well. They interact and work in a safe and secure environment where they learn from others and learn to normalize working with women.

Jimi is also associated with this project; she belongs to Mithi and is the mother of 3 children. As a dump truck driver, she is happy because now she can earn money for the better future of her children.

The Thar is very rich in culture when it comes to embroidery, cuisine and jewelry. With good road connectivity to the Thar, it becomes easy for women artisans the to showcase their talent and transport it to other cities in less time. Handmade rilli, carpets and shawls are a source of tourist attraction. The wedding season is considered like a peak season for artisans due to the huge demand for embroidered dresses and rilli.

Desert Jeep Rally is an event attended by riders from all over Pakistan. It is also a very favorable event for the local craftswomen of the Thar. Those without access to other towns sell their handmade items to tourists who willingly buy different items as souvenirs for others. Hunters when visiting the Thar to hunt migratory birds also buy handmade items.

Local artisans; this is a positive trend in terms of income generation and cultural preservation. Recently, the needlework of the Thari women has reached the Middle East and now they also receive regular orders from the Royals. The special pickle that the Thari women make from the lotus flower is also a big attraction for tourists.

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Road connectivity makes it easy for industrialists in metropolitan areas to work with local Thari women and project their talent to other cities as well. The dry sandy Thar Desert is becoming a development hub. Although it is in its infancy, the people of Thar, despite using so many opportunities, strive to meet their basic needs. However, it is the start from scratch, the development of the incubation period is tedious but worth working.

Written by: Mahnoor Qureshi

The author is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. She can be contacted at mahnoorqureshi06@gmail.com. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.