Five Pakistani women artisans overcome security concerns to participate in an ongoing artisans’ exhibition in the Capital

They had to fight opposition from their family members over their concerns about women’s security situation in India following the recent gang rape incident in the Capital. But eventually the five-member group of women artisans from Pakistan could make it to Delhi to participate in an ongoing dastakar exhibition at the Dilli Haat.

As the leader of the delegation, Abida Malik is ensuring that every member is comfortable and safe. “Women in our country are not able to step out of their homes to market their products. Due to extensive media coverage on the gang rape of the medical student both in India and Pakistan, their families had a genuine concern. But in Dilli Haat, we feel safe with our Indian sisters who are working with us in jointly producing embroidered works.”

The participants are members of the Behbud Association of Pakistan, which provides employment to women practising embroidery styles in different regions. It collaborated with the Dastkari Haat Samiti to create an opportunity for the Pakistani women artisans to create wonderful products while working alongside Indian women artisans.

Expressing the confidence that their horizon will broaden, Abida says in certain areas of embroidery techniques, Pakistani artisans have more expertise and so can share the skills with their Indian counterparts.

“Similarly, Indian women artisans share their secrets and this joint collaboration will do a world of good. By the time the exhibition concludes on January 14, we would have produced quite a few samples which would be scrutinised by the Export Promotion Bureau,” adds Abida.

Though she is single-minded in her determination to do business in India, she is aware that this is a goodwill visit rather than a commercial proposition.

Artisan Affida Kausar’s children were apprehensive about her safety but the moment she crossed the Wagah border, she was greeted with warm friendly smiles and hospitality.

For Pindi-based Nasreen, the visit to India was an emotional one. Nearly all members of her father’s family were butchered while crossing over to Pakistan during Partition. Her mother’s family lived near the historic Jama Masjid and she hopes to pay a visit to her ancestral house.

But all her apprehensions about Indians disappeared while working with women artisans from different parts of the country.

For Affila Ashraf, an expert in tarkashi, interacting with Indian artisans has given her an opportunity to understand Indian embroidery skills. At 18, Riffat Shehzadi, specialising in riley or appliqué work, is the youngest in the delegation.

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