Meet The Pakistani Woman Who Started An Organization To Empower Women Using Embroidery

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By Julia Travers

Khalida Brohi is a unique change maker and legendary woman because she approaches a difficulty at its root with courage, creativity, and tenacity. With a focus on celebrating women’s traditional arts, the Sughar Fund she founded and its centers honor, empower, and educate tribal women directly. Khalida Brohi explains that Sughar in a local language means skilled and confident woman. Sughar Centers are accessible to local women and designed for them, offering education on using, refining and valuing their own skills and on their rights and options for change.

The Founder

Khalida is from the Balochistan Province of Pakistan, which borders with Afghanistan and Iran. Some of the main difficulties girls and women face in this area which the Sughar Fund seeks to engage and change include child marriage, wata sata (exchange marriages), prevention from earning higher education, and honor killings (which occur though they are illegal), among others.

After her family moved to the city so she could attend school in Karachi (which her mother requested of her father), she became acutely aware of how rare her freedom was and wanted to facilitate the empowerment of other females in her community. At age 16 she began partnering with Participatory Development Initiatives (PDI), “a youth-led not for profit and non-governmental organization.” The Daily Beast reports that Brohi was included in a session at the Women in the World Summit called “The Next Generation of Malalas.” They share this report from the summit:

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“Khalida’s father warned her that doing this work would kill her. She responded, ‘Doing this work will keep me alive.’”

You can follow Khalida Brohi and access her social media sites from her blog, where she offers to share

“thoughts, memories, stories and experiences of growing up as a village girl in Pakistan, embracing my indigenous inheritance, rebelling against negative cultural norms, launching initiatives for women’s empowerment and trying to be a good older sister to eight siblings while staying a troublemaker.”

The Sughar Centers

Sughar Centers (Sughar.org) seek to help tribal women reconsider their positions and power through hands-on, real life training and opportunities. They focus on women’s skills, such as embroidery, as a means for entrepreneurship, and include education on women’s fair treatment. While the projects still face opposition, focusing on local, established crafts is a powerful gateway. As their project description on the ASHOKA Changemakers site explains,

“This is a very effective approach as we tend to respect the existing traditions and rather than standing against their customs we promote the beauties it holds and offer significant measures on how its certain aspects need changing and can be changed. This allows us a greater participation of the local communities and their genuine interest in our activities.”

The cycle of each project has many stages, including training of local facilitators, workshops, the setting up of centers and courses in education, awareness and embroidery business skills, marketing and even loans after graduation.

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This site also explains that their focus is on providing women “education skills and awareness about their rights and equal status in Islam.” Sughar’s first project was in Khuzdar, Balochistan with ten villages. With support from the International Labour Organization they are now planning to work in the Thatta District. Other principal partners are The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the UN HABITAT Youth Opportunities Fund. The Sughar Fund has also launched a Rural Fashion Brand called Sughar Needle Craft. The Sughar products have been sold worldwide and the project has been recognized by Bono, Oprah, and Bill Clinton.

This organization brings a voice of change from within tribal Islamic communities that speaks through art, dialogue, economic empowerment, and social education. Spiritual Author Eckhart Tolle wrote that

“The world can only change from within.”

By encouraging women to respect their own abilities and creativity, to appreciate the power in gathering and learning together, and to reconsider their position in their local cultures, Khalida Brohi and the Sughar Fund help tribal women to change from within and tap into their own power.

Below is an excerpt from Khalida Brohi‘s poem, “The Only Way Out is the Way In~In Search of Peace”

“…My eyes when search around the corners of this world to find peace they never know, that it was once buried deep down in the once alive rivers of my heart and the only way out now is the way in…and to begin peace within.”

In this video on Vimeo, Khalida Brohi reflects on observing child marriages, as well as a friend’s’ murder for suspicion of a premarital affair, and says that she “would want women to sing, and dance, and feel the freedom, every day in their lives,” and “would not want to dream for my daughter; I would want her to dream for herself.”


 

Julia-Travers

Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and marketing content and also runs the artist interview site 5 Questions for the Artist

 

One Comment

  1. Great. Congrats for the wonderful work

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