Empowering Women in Pakistan

This is what beauty looks like. This is the sound of laughter coming from a woman doing what she loves and getting paid for it. This is a rural Pakistani from Khairpur who belongs to Project Rang, one of 2600 women across the South Punjab and Sindh who are earning living wages where once there were no wages at all. With it, this widow supports her children and grandchildren.  

Rang means color in Urdu, reflecting the vibrancy of the textiles for which this region is known - and, wowsie, does she live up to that!? This woman belongs to the Baloch group, exuberant in their loose tribal embroidery work, here in her mud hut home. I want to sit down with her and talk about the vibrant threads of her life.

But while I’ve not been to her village or sat by her fire, Samina has. Samina Mahmud, right, is a fashion designer in Pakistan who has given herself over to working with rural Pakistani women to save their textile traditions as well as to give the most marginalized women income for the skills of their hands.  Which, as you know by now, are the same two goals that spurred me to start the Ibu movement in the first place.  I’m excited.

Project Rang was developed by the Indus Heritage Trust in 2014, with the goal of expanding livelihood to over 2600 artisans in the course of 8 years. Phase One focused on skills training; Phase Two on the entrepreneurial aspects of running a business. It targets 72 villages, focusing on the areas most devastated by the severe flooding of 2010 which changed the landscape dramatically. Samina is out in the villages putting color and stitches and age-old stories into a look for you to love.

Each piece passes through several women’s hands, each embedding their own soul into the product, taking up to 3 months to complete, and ensuring that nothing is mass-produced, nothing is fast-fashion; each piece goes through exacting high-quality control, each piece sings.

Samina is in it for the artisans. She works with women who do not have education or technology or the possibility of jobs, those who live in extreme poverty but who hold fast-dying skills and carry their traditions with great heart. They are the backbone of their families and can, with training and income, provide education for their children, a better standard of living, dignity for themselves and their daughters, and long term social change. This is not just slow fashion; it is also the slow and steady answer to women’s empowerment in Pakistan.

I love the colors in these images, the closeness of these women working together and crafting a very different future.  I love the Rang, the hope in it, the women in it, the chance to color the world between us . . . nothing less than beautiful.

All the Best,

Susan Hull Walker