Recently Karachista held its first ever online pop-up on Instagram, for an amazing Karachi-based charity called Tahreek-e-Falah that helps women in a katchi abadi produce the most incredible hand-embroidered clothes. Ayesha Siddiqui finds out more about this amazing initiative, a story of empowerment and women lifting up women…
“Aisha, never stand with a begging bowl outstretched to the men in your life, you must stand on your own feet, command your own income and then you will see the respect and dignity with which you can lead your life,”
Nargis Jeevanjee to Aisha, a young seamstress about to commence a career of teaching embroidery.
It’s remarkable how a few words uttered decades earlier can penetrate deep within a mind, take root there and become the guiding principle for a program that has helped generations of young girls and women seeking to find their independence. An initiative that has empowered them to aspire to a higher sense of living, taught them how to look for ways which could encapsulate a more elegant, graceful style of existence.
When Karachista held our pop up store showcasing outfits made by Tahreek-e-Falah, the response was electrifying – with all outfits sold out within the hour and our Instagram account deluged with demands for more. The beauty of the hand-embroidered pieces won over our following instantly and customers were delighted to buy such pretty pieces without a designer mark-up.
Mewa Shah was a broken-down district tucked far away on the outskirts of Karachi in Old Golimar and known primarily at the time for the drug addicts who roamed its muddy broken down lanes. It was an area where very few women hailing from a privileged mileu would have ventured. Not only did she penetrate the depths of the area, she discovered some women there had potential for beautiful embroidery and were desperately in need of vocational training. She rented a single room in a resident’s house, arranged for a teacher who would teach them stitching and embroidery and thus the seeds of Tehreek e Falah were sown thirty-two years ago.
The drug addicts who lived there regularly broke into the tiny clinic there and stole the medicines to sell to fund their addiction. Nargis Jeevanjee had a solution for that as well. She managed to get some land from a private donor, the ground floor was made into a proper medical clinic while the first floor established a Quran class and three rooms were converted into an industrial home where daily three shifts of young girls learnt dainty ribbon work, exquisitely fine cross stitch and beautiful embroidery. She had by then long since handed over the reins to a group of ladies who have carried the work on till this day, following the guide lines she had established.
To this day the girls from Mewa Shah are charged the princely sum of Rs 100/- for attending classes five days a week for three months. Aisha teaches them just as she began all those years ago. By the end of the course the girls are fully trained and commence work. They are given the materials and designs and it being a charitable venture from start to finish the girls who do this are not only promptly and very well paid but every penny in sales goes to them while the prices have been kept deliberately low. The price range is Rs8-11,000 with the most expensive outfit topping at 15000/- . With most pret-wear outfits these days ranging from anywhere between Rs25-28,000, these prices appear almost ludicrously low especially seeing the high quality of cloth and workmanship offered.
Tahreek-e-Falah makes pouches for bidh as well. Shirred, frilled, rose-bud embroidered and tucked each pouch is a pocket sized piece of perfection. They supply clothes in Dubai by means of a private individual as well where they have become a huge hit with the Emerati ladies. Since each piece is handmade, the UAE stock is quite limited. Fortunately for us in Pakistan more stock is available.
“My husband is quite proud of me because he has seen that I bring my own income into the house and it’s flexible. It’s up to me how many outfits I choose to make in a week so depending on the demands on my time, I can increase or decrease my output,” says Shazia, one of their best workers and the youngest of six sisters who have all trained from Tahreek-e-Falah. There are many more stories like hers of young women understanding the importance of empowerment.
The charity hosts two Eid exhibitions a year and take part in the annual Saarc exhibition. We’ve now started regular online pop-ups for the charity on Karachista’s Instagram so do check out our highlights to see what treasures you can get from there and support this incredible endeavour which began all those years ago. Tahreek-e-Falah , making a stand for women’s liberation, one student at a time…..