FAO in Pakistan

Mother of nine, forty-year-old Hajra aspires to have a ‘’glass shop’’ in the markets of Quetta one day, where people can admire and purchase the carpets she makes. By “glass shop”, she means a modern shop with glass displays that can be spotted from afar.

Hajra learned the art of weaving wool thread into elaborate carpets from the training she received through the FAO-Australia Balochistan Agriculture Business Program (AusABBA). This was her first formal training of any sort, having spent most of her life in the village taking care of her family.

‘’The training was very easy and accessible since I did not have to leave my village to learn these useful skills. My identity is no longer limited to being a mother of nine; I am proud to be known as a carpet-maker and designer now’’, says an exuberant Hajra.

Hajra recently sold one of her carpets for 80,000 rupees to a leading hotel in Quetta. She sold another carpet to a local Minister who presented it to Chinese dignitaries. The increased income is coming in handy, as now she sends all her children to school with confidence, especially her daughters, whose education was not considered necessary in the past. Her status in the household has improved as well. She feels that she has a greater say in the decision-making when it comes to matters of the household and her children’s future. Additionally, her relationship with her spouse has also improved; she takes care of minor expenses herself whereas previously she had to ask repeatedly for his support.

Hajra believes that carpet-making has given the village women a much-needed creative outlet. ‘’With a limited social life, the women were often frustrated; this activity has given many of us purpose, especially the unmarried girls who now occupy their time usefully.’’

For the first time in her life, Hajra left Balochistan to travel to Lahore and Islamabad last year, where she displayed her carpets at various art expos. According to Hajra, her legs used to tremble when interacting with strangers, she could not even speak up for her rights. Now, she has a voice and is proud to use it. Her skills have given her the confidence and exposure she lacked, which have seeped into every aspect of her life.

She can now independently go to her children’s school and enter into discussions to resolve matters, for instance.

Using the natural dyes from the vegetables she grows in her kitchen garden, Hajra spends six hours a day making carpets. To make a six-foot by four carpet, it takes two women approximately one month. Hajra currently uses the loom given to her by the AusABBA program, but plans to purchase another one from her savings in order to increase her output.

With a newfound passion for designing and weaving carpets, coupled with the determination to expand, Hajra is very close to achieving her goal of running her own ‘’glass shop’’ in the markets of Quetta. She will go on to attend training on Business Development, also organized by FAO, where local women are taught business models, marketing, evaluation techniques, total quality management, and entrepreneurial skills. They will learn how to reinvest in their businesses, as well as raise money externally by applying for bank loans.

Hajra dreams that one day, every woman in Balochistan will be equipped with the necessary skills to generate income, to secure her future and that of her children, and to find her voice along the way.