Women are integral part of human civilization. They play a vital role in the socio-economic development and mainstreaming of the society. Specially in the modern world of today denying women of opportunities means waste of human capital and is certainly a bar to economic prosperity and mainstreaming. Women are undoubtedly the foundation of the basic unit of society i.e. the family. Even in traditional roles they demonstrate great innovation, skill, intelligence, hard work and commitment. These attributes, if are harnessed effectively, can undoubtedly in no time will lead the society to the pinnacle of success and prosperity.
Despite the fact that women possess great potentials for contribution to social development, their role in the tribal areas of Pakistan have for a long time been taken for granted and have remained neglected. As consequence they continue to suffer from limited access to opportunities and resources.
The war on terror has not only affected the bigger machinery of the society but has also affected the marginalized section of the society such as women particularly those living in the tribal areas of Pakistan. At this point in time when the people of FATA are faced with severe economic miseries, embroidery can play a vital part in economic empowerment of the society. Women need to enter into the income generation business and for this purpose embroidery work can play a most important role.
In the patriarchal and closed society of FATA, women are considered as symbol of honor (Izzat). They usually remains at home and their participation in economic activities is negligible.. However, they do participate in informal activities like household management and agriculture. In any society the socio-economic political and educational status of an individual determines his/her participation in the development process. This means that until and unless majority of the population is brought to mainstreaming, such society cannot be expected to attain high levels of socio-economic development. Therefore, development is impossible if women have absolutely no role in economic process- FATA is such a case.
Despite the fact that half of the total population of FATA consists of women, unfortunately they have been out of development process thus creating a huge economic vacuum leading to the total disempowerment of women. Although, majority of the female population is illiterate yet they possess unprecedented skills and expertise in the field of embroidery and handicraft production that has been passed on from generation to generation as a part of their domestic production. However, the traditional and tribal structure of the society has never allowed them a viable access to market. As a consequence this huge potential for income generation particularly for women has remained unexplored.
The role of government authorities and NGOs is crucial in this respect. The government of Pakistan in collaboration with NGOs can provide an enabling environment for this marginalized segment of the society to cash their talent. For instance the government authorities can initiate vocational trainings and skill enhancement programmes for the tribal women in embroidery and handicraft production. Moreover, the government can also launch micro credit schemes to help the deprived segment of the community to establish their own business and with the help of NGOs and civil society can provide a viable access to the market so that they can get a better prize for their products. Such programmes will certainly assist the marginalized tribal women to earn substantial income by sitting at their homes without going against the strict tribal norms. The income generated in this way will not only help in empowering women at grassroots level but will certainly help in alleviating poverty at large. The economic empowerment of women through such programmes will no doubt help the weak and marginalized women of FATA in bolstering their basic fundamental rights and enabling them to have more control over their lives. Likewise, according to various researches conducted in different parts of the globe, there is a direct and positive co-relation between “women income”and“women expenditures on social welfare”. This delineates that the increase in the income of women will lead to an increase in the overall expenditure for the betterment of the family in general and for the welfare of the society at large.
Moreover, embroidery can be a useful tool to cater the economic miseries of those displaced as a consequence of the ongoing conflict in the tribal region. According to a survey conducted by World Food programme around 5% of the displaced families are headed by females and 72% of the families headed by females were facing inadequate food consumption and 67% of the displaced persons were living below the poverty line with an income of 2000-2500 per month. The government of Pakistan through vocational trainings and skill enhancement programmes can assist these marginalized tribal women to generate enough income to feed their families. This will not only help in elevating poverty in short run but in long run it can act as a catalyst to speed up the rehabilitation process.
Likewise, due to the killing of love ones, family heads, relatives, decline in social gatherings and shrinking of economic activities has increased the level of frustration and psychological despondencies particularly among the tribal women. According to survey around 80% people mostly women living in the war raged regions (FATA) are facing various psychological issues. Embroidery again can play a vital role in alleviating the psychological despondencies of the tribal women by economically empowering them. The economic empowerment will not only help in bolstering the confidence levels of the tribal women but also play a role of a candle that throws its beam to shine a good deed in a weary world.
Similarly it can also play a vital role in alleviating militancy in the tribal areas. According to a research the root cause of the exacerbating militancy in the tribal region is not ideological rather economic basis. The economic empowerment of women will help in alleviating the overall poverty in FATA which will no doubt help in mitigating the probability of further jihadi recruitments.
In a nutshell, we can say that to promote embroidery, the government of Pakistan along the civil society should initiate vocational trainings, skill enhancement programmes and micro credit schemes to explore the expertise of these women in the field of embroidery and handicraft production to mitigate the socio-economic and psychological issues that have emerged as a consequence of war on terror.