Needlework by female artisans in Pakistan’s white desert reaches royal courts of Arabia

Needlework by female artisans in Pakistan’s white desert reaches royal courts of Arabia
Craftswomen in Khooh Kapni village in the Achro Thar desert near Khipro, Sanghar district, Sindh province in Pakistan. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
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Updated 30 October 2020

Needlework by female artisans in Pakistan’s white desert reaches royal courts of Arabia

Needlework by female artisans in Pakistan’s white desert reaches royal courts of Arabia

KHIPRO: Naaji Meghwar, a middle-aged artisan in a desert village in southeastern Pakistan, said that she was looking forward to going shopping for her family before the upcoming Diwali festival this year.
For a change, she can make her own decisions about how to spend money: The 10,000 rupees ($62) that she makes each month from needlework is hard-earned and all her own.
Meghwar — from Pakistan’s Achro Thar desert, known for its white sand dunes and saline lakes — is one of dozens of local women who have turned the craft of thread work into a means of financial independence, and whose elaborate embroidery designs are now admired and appropriated abroad, with regular orders from royals in the Middle East.
“This Diwali festival in mid-November, I have planned shopping for my family from my embroidery work savings,” Meghwar told Arab New, referring to the Hindu festival of lights, celebrated each year in the impoverished desert whose population of 300,000 people is majority Hindu.
“This financial freedom is because of money in my hand, as I don’t have to be dependent on male members of the family,” the artisan said.
Things are about to get even better for Mehgwar. With winter approaching, she and her colleagues are expecting a rise in orders for their richly detailed tapestries.
“Normally winter is peak season for local orders because of wedding season and dowries,” she said.
Demand for the embroidered pieces also rises in winter with the arrival of migratory birds and foreign hunters, who come mostly from Arab countries to hunt rare desert birds such as the houbara bustard. They also buy local craft.
“Achro Thar normally hosts dignitaries from royal families of the United Arab Emirates for hunting,” Malhar Chaniho, a local Arabic translator, who organizes hunting trips, told Arab News. “During the past 20 years, I have purchased countless homemade items, especially rugs and shawls on the demand of
royal guests.”

HIGHLIGHT

The designs are now admired and appropriated abroad with regular orders from Arab countries.

Needlework from Achro Thar is vividly colored with geometrical and wildlife motifs and comes in many variations.
Aari embroidery, for example, is popular for its fine and delicate threadwork and usually decorates scarves. Ralli work, with interlocking circles and stepped square patterns, appears on bigger items such as quilts and bedcovers.
These decorative handworks have international appeal as gifts. Allahyar Muhammad Khan Keerio, a resident of Achro Thar’s Sanghar district, said that he had spent 30 years working as a driver in Madinah and always took embroidered pieces with him as gifts when he returned to Saudi Arabia. 
“During my stay in the Kingdom as an expat and now as a frequent visitor, I take local handicrafts as souvenirs for my family and friends and for former Saudi bosses,” he said. “For my next Umrah trip, I have already placed some handicrafts orders to take as gifts.”
Because handicraft from Achro Thar is unregulated, it is hard to pin down how much of it is sent abroad and whether the women artisans are paid fairly for their work.
“This women-led craft is of high potential but remains undocumented,” Ashiq Hussain Khoso, head of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan’s Hyderabad branch, told Arab News. “In personal and individual capacity, women-made products from Achro Thar go to Middle East, Europe and US.”
But the TDAP, he said, was planning to “uplift” desert craftswomen and help them to capture the online market. Indeed, in an impoverished region where most are illiterate and internet access is scarce, the craftswomen say all that they need is the government’s help in getting rid of middlemen.
“Government should establish purchasing centers where it can buy embroidery work and sell elsewhere and give us due payment,” said Khadija Samoon, an embroidery master from Dodhar village, who used to work with the Sindh Rural Support Organization.
As she sewed brightly colored patches onto a black tunic, she said: “In the absence of government infrastructure, women artisans are at the mercy of private vendors.”

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Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot

Updated 1 min 33 sec ago

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot
  • The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers
  • Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight

MOSCOW: Moscow began distributing the Sputnik V COVID-19 shot via 70 clinics on Saturday, marking Russia’s first mass vaccination against the disease, the city’s coronavirus task force said.
The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers because they ran the highest risk of exposure to the disease.
“You are working at an educational institution and have top-priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, free of charge,” read a phone text message received by one Muscovite, an elementary school teacher, early on Saturday and seen by Reuters.
Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight, up from 6,868 a day before and well above the daily tallies of around 700 seen in early September.
“Over the first five hours, 5,000 people signed up for the jab — teachers, doctors, social workers, those who are today risking their health and lives the most,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his personal website on Friday.
The age for those receiving shots is capped at 60. People with certain underlying health conditions, pregnant women and those who have had a respiratory illness for the past two weeks are barred from vaccination.
Russia has developed two COVID-19 vaccines, Sputnik V which is backed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and another developed by Siberia’s Vector Institute, with final trials for the both yet to be completed.
Scientists have raised concerns about the speed at which Russia has worked, giving the regulatory go-ahead for its vaccines and launching mass vaccinations before full trials to test its safety and efficacy had been completed.
The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two injections, with the second dose is expected to be given 21 days after the first.
Moscow closed down all public places including parks and cafes, with exception for delivery, in late March, with police patrolling the streets looking for whose violating the rules. Restrictions were eased from mid-June, however.
Russia as a whole reported 28,782 new infections on Saturday, its highest daily tally, pushing the national total to 2,431,731, the fourth-highest in the world.
In October, certain restrictions such as remote learning for some secondary school children and a 30% limit on the number of workers allowed in offices were introduced again.