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Buying and social change: linking ladies artisans from Pakistan to worldwide markets | The Social Enterprise Journal

Lubna Sher Mohammad (under) has been doing embroidery for the final six years, making lovely designs to complement the revenue of her husband, and to assist them each cowl the price of elevating 5 kids. Initially from Kohat, the household moved to Karachi seeking work.

Around the globe, migrants like Lubna carry from their rural communities a wealthy heritage of artisanal abilities, ranging throughout weaving, woodworking, ceramics and plenty of different handcrafts. 

If ladies earn cash, round 90% of it stays in the neighborhood… If ladies are economically empowered, more cash is offered to spend on maternal well being, little one well being, and schooling

Is there a way of preserving these abilities in a 21st century period of mass manufacturing standardisation, and of world buying? And will such artisanal traditions create employment and lift residing requirements? 

Jen Georgeson, chief government of a UK-based social enterprise and on-line market known as So Simply Store, responds with an emphatic “sure”. Her web site gives a variety of handcrafts, produced by 50 totally different teams unfold throughout 20 totally different nations on three continents, and is targeted on the empowerment of ladies. 

“It’s fairly a easy premise,” Jen says, citing knowledge from the United Nations. “If ladies earn cash, round 90% of it stays in the neighborhood, whereas the equal for males is just 30-40%. If ladies are economically empowered, more cash is offered to spend on maternal well being, little one well being and schooling.”

In Pakistan, the British Council DICE fund is supporting a partnership between So Simply Store and the Basis for Arts, Tradition and Training (FACE), a Pakistan-based organisation led by Zeejah Fazli, an entrepreneur with lengthy expertise of musical and cultural occasions. The mission is known as Womart. 

Zeejah explains: “We’re choosing and coaching 5 ladies artisans from outlying areas of every of Pakistan’s 5 provinces, so that may be a complete of 25 ladies in all. Lubna is likely one of the beneficiaries. We’re growing merchandise collectively with the assistance of So Simply Store, to market them each in Pakistan and within the UK. And it’s not nearly getting merchandise on the web site. We’ve narrated tales, we have now gone into the lives of the artisans, how they’ve developed their careers, what are their lives, their assist constructions within the household, their background of wrestle.”

The mission has confronted some huge challenges. The ladies come from very rural communities, with restricted entry not simply to the worldwide market, but in addition to the Pakistani marketplace for their merchandise. For some, attending the workshops was the primary time that they had travelled exterior of their house villages. As many villages are patriarchal and socially conservative, this required acquiring particular permission. In any case, reaching the contributors concerned traversing the nation’s troublesome panorama, from deserts to mountains, and negotiating poor transport hyperlinks. 

When the primary workshops had been held a few of the ladies couldn’t attend due to poor climate and highway situations.  The mission managers needed to equip the ladies with smartphones, in order that they may see how their merchandise are marketed on the web and think about different handcrafts. Even then, the cell phone sign in some villages is weak. 



Focusing on totally different markets

A key concern is how you can meet the totally different calls for of markets in Pakistan on the one hand, and in developed nations just like the UK, on the opposite. 

In Pakistan, handcrafts usually are not a distinct segment market. Zeejah says they’re trying as an alternative at making a variety of “fundamental merchandise” for on a regular basis use, together with pouches or wallets to carry cell phones, laptop computer covers and purses. He desires to attach the artisans with Pakistani style outfits. The preliminary focus, nevertheless, is on making the merchandise out there on to customers via an internet site. Zeejah has been negotiating with SCO, the general public sector telecom companies organisation, to allow the artisans to make use of a cellular phone-based funds system, and with cell phone operator Telenor Pakistan to analyze micro-finance choices. 

Different elements additionally need to be taken into consideration when looking for the optimum stability between serving the home and worldwide markets such because the fluctuating worth of the Pakistani rupee. The depreciation of the rupee during the last yr has inspired Zeejah to focus considerably extra on exports.  

Jen explains that within the UK, So Simply Store gives each direct-to-consumer and wholesale traces. A 3rd possibility is bespoke traces commissioned by different organisations. 

“The direct-to-consumer traces, offered through the web site, are typically restricted editions, so to talk,” she says. “We by no means anticipate the artisans to make, say, greater than 100 merchandise in a go.” It is a traditional area of interest market: these customers love the truth that what they’re shopping for is exclusive, handmade and a one-off. 

Alternatively, wholesale traces require larger artisan teams capable of ship bigger product runs to a constant stage of high quality. 

“When you find yourself coping with handmade gadgets there’s at all times a stability to be struck between high quality and quantity. There are execs and cons of each methods of doing it,” says Jen, who believes the perfect method is to try to develop a number of income streams, to permit the enterprise to maintain on supporting the person smaller artisans whereas rising wholesale and bespoke manufacturing in order to construct a extra sustainable enterprise.

We weren’t naïve sufficient to suppose this could be easy or easy

Trying ahead, Zeejah is enthusiastic. He says Pakistani authorities companies have expressed curiosity within the mission, notably its skill to create employment and cut back poverty. The quick focus is on the formal launch of the Pakistan market-facing web site www.womart.pk, however past that he says his dream could be so as to add one thing like 5 new artisans each month, scaling up total manufacturing and gross sales and maybe growing some particular person manufacturers. 

Jen says that organising the preliminary group of 25 ladies artisans has been a significant achievement. She feedback: “We weren’t naïve sufficient to suppose this could be easy or easy. What was so good concerning the British Council was their understanding that as a way to work with these communities there must be a stage of assist. Womart’s construction and funding for coaching allows this to change into a extra long-term strategic method to the financial empowerment of those ladies’s teams.”


The British Council and the DICE Collaborators (together with the organisations featured on this article) invite you to affix them in a sequence of conversations about lowering inequalities, collaborating throughout borders and oceans, and working impact-focused enterprises at a time of profound change. These free, month-to-month dwell occasions are co-hosted by impact-focused organisations in Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and South Africa and their companions within the UK, and draw on their expertise of collaborating throughout borders to deal with challenges similar to youth unemployment, environmental disaster, incapacity rights, and gender inequality in native communities. Discover out extra and register right here.

The DICE Sequence tells the tales of collaborations which introduced collectively enterprise improvement consultants from the UK with specialists working in 5 rising economies – Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and South Africa – throughout 2019-20 with the intention of addressing entrenched problems with financial and social exclusion. Learn extra concerning the British Council’s DICE programme right here.


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