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Contribution Of Women In Handicrafts In Lahore Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 3031 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The present study is about the contribution of women in handicrafts. The current theme of research regarding handicrafts is to find out the type of embroidery work that women do in their houses and also the problems and benefits they get from their skills. While there is a lot of research are presented on this topic but there is a lack of attention on those women and their contribution in handicrafts (embroidery). This study would add a knowledge and information to the existing one. Moreover in Pakistan this work is impossible without women's contribution. So, it would also help us to understand the women problems regarding their works.


"Handicrafts are items made by hand, often with the use of tools, and are generally artistic and traditional in nature. They include objects of utility and objects of decoration." (Geographical Indications of Goods Act, 1999).

Handicrafts are the things that are produce completely by hand or with the help of tool. They also known as craft work in which useful and decorative things are used to complete it. Generally the term is used to traditional way of making things. Handicrafts are unique ideas that represent a culture and tradition of a country and it is most important in terms of economic development.

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Handicrafts are the mirror of culture, tradition and the beauty of this work is depend upon the aesthetic sense of the workers and also on the quality of material and touch of art.  Pakistan has a rich history of handicrafts. The greate workers of Pakistan have greate skills to show their care in craftsmanship and Pakistani culture promises everything beauty,dignity,form and style. (Shaukat, 2006)

Handicrafts are as most important symbol in terms of economic development.For the long time period home based work has helped men and women both an economically.In now a days this market get progress and became internationalized but men get more benefits then women due to that freedom that they have to move anywere in profitable areas and the adaptation of these workers into unorganized sector have made women more insecure and lead them to the explotation of their skills.in recentl. (Gyanendra & Dastidar, 2000)

The facts is that more wealthy countries have less informal economy but developing countries more expansive one. Denmark has 18 per cent, Nigeria and Thailand 80 per cent informal economy and there is nothing insulting to admit the fact that Pakistan has an informal economy of about 70 per cent.

(Bhatti, 2002)

Types of handicrafts

Handicrafts involve the different types of creation including clothing, religious symbols and jewelry, and different types of paper crafts. (Malcolm Tatum, 2003)

There are hundreds if not thousands of different varieties of handicrafts. The following list of crafts is included just for descriptive purposes.

The Handicrafts manifested through Brass, onyx and wood, are known to maintain a proud tradition of handicrafts since 1994 in Pakistan and truly signifying the worth of the products. The art of carving on Metal & Wood items are the real beauties of our hard working Craftsmen. These items are manufactured in small villages by hardwork craftsman, and can easily be purchased in big cities. Such crafts include, metal lanterns, mirror frames, decoration pieces and more.   (Shaukat, 2006)

3. Pottery  

The potter at his wheel is a common scene in every village, uninfluenced by modern glamour. Bahawalpur, Rawalpindi, Gujrat and places around also produce colorful pottery, painted after firing. pottery of Multan is welknown from dates back to the 13th century with obvious traces for woodwork. Chiniot is also known for woodwork. Copper and brass work is done within the walled city of Lahore.

Ceramics and glazed pottery are the oldest art in Pakistan, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization (2500 B.C.E.). Many popular techniques are used to dercorate the pottery and popular technique is to apply blue designs over white glazes.  Pakistani potters are welknown for making the elaborate tiles that decorate mosques and public buildings. (Shaukat, 2006)

4. Woodcrafts

Wood-carving, Woosd-turning, Cabinet making, Furniture making, lacquerware include in woodcrafts. Pakistani furniture is known all over the world for its beautiful designs and the asthetic sense of the worker. One of the fine longitudinal cross grains solid wood is known as Rosewood. It is available in the northern areas of Pakistan. In Asia this wood is only available in Pakistan. In local language people calls it ''SHESHAM''. It is also available along the lakes and rivers in Punjab province of Pakistan. Such furniture is famous all over the world for its beauty. (Shaukat, 2006)

5. Jewelry & Leather goods

Metalwork, including inlaid or engraved swords, boxes, dishes, and tea sets made from silver and gold, as well as jewelry with precious stones and pearls, are important crafts. Jewelry is not limited to necklaces, bracelets, rings but also includes hair and forehead decorations and nose ornaments. Leatherwork and basketry are also important crafts. Sindh baskets are colorful and intricate, while weavers in the Northwest Frontier prefer geometric patterns. (Shaukat, 2006)


Embroidery is the art or handicraft of decorating cloth or other materials with needle and thread or wool.Workers also enhance its beauty with uses of other materials such as metal strips, pearls, beads, quills, and sequins. Embroidery is an ancient textile art which uses strands of embroidery floss or wool to create a picture in thread on canvas, linen or other cloth. It forms a part of needlework. Embroidery uses various stitches and combinations of stitches. Each embroidery stitch has a special name to help identify it.

Embroidery has recognized as a creative expression of people and it is storage of our oral traditions which have been maintained by the women. (Dhamija, 2004)

Embroidered textiles are frequently used to decorate living spaces, temporary or permanent, impressive or modest depend upon choise and the sense of owner.

Historically, embroidered textiles shows the wealthy and influence touch of rulers, courtiers, and courtesans. Among South Asia's many peoples are identified by this textiles frequently, personal status or religious affiliation. (Dale Carolyn Gluckman, 2007)

The folk embroidery tradition runs deep in the Punjab. At the end of the 15th century, the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak, wrote: "Thou art not a worthwhile woman until thou hast embroidered thy own blouse". Village women still practice the craft, also stitching bed and cushion covers and a variety of other cloths, but the art probably reached its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Beste, Michael, 2009)

Types of embroidery

There are many different styles of embroidery, often with regional variations.

Chikan embroidery

Chikan embroidery is a fine needle-craft done by hand mostly using white thread on a variety of fabrics from cotton and silk to synthetics. It is the most famous fine art of embroidery at word level, and is famous not only in India, but also abroad. (Sarna & Shukla, 1994)

Zari embroideries

From the second half of 18th century until the early 20th century, two different types of gold embroidery found ready patrons; these were: zardozi work, heavy silver-gilt thread work upon a foundation padded with cotton thread or paper, on velvet or sation ground; and Kalabattu work: light delicate embroidery, in gilt-silver or silver threads, strips of gilt-silver, gilt-silver sequins, upon fine silk cotton or muslin. (Dhamija, 2004)

White work

White work is embroidered in white thread, on pure white fabric, it is not at all difficult, and is cheap to achieve. The tools you will need for white work embroidery are minimal. Firstly, a nice piece of fabric. Depending on the kind of item you wish to produce, you may start out with high thread count white muslin, or an even weave or linen.

Appliqué work

Appliqué work is every kind of embroidery which, being worked solidly on one material is then cut out and lay down upon another, and secured by various ornamental stitches. (Dhamija, 2004)

China work

This work was almost entirely Chinese in design and techniques. It was done on saries, shawls, borders, children dresses and a variety of costumes. The fabric used was mainly chines silk or fine satin of red, purple and black colour. The embroidery was done sometimes with floss-silk and more often with tightly spun, two ply silk. (Dhamija, 2004)


The simple and sparsely embroided work for everyday use was called phulkari. It was done on odhnis or shawls for everyday use on coarse handspun khadi cloth, mostly brownish-red, usng floss-silk in darning stitched worked from the reverse side of fabric. (Dhamija, 2004)

Kashmir embroidery

The main varieties of Kashmir being namda, work on felt-wool, gabba, a type of appliqué work, using waste woolen fabrics and kashida wrought on various kinds of clothing and the cloth used is either silk or wool. (Dhamija, 2004)

Role of women in handicrafts

Home based workers are the most marginalized and one of the largest groups of workers in this sector, with an estimated 300 million workers worldwide. Home based work has been identified as work that is undertaken in the home. They are predominately women, located in various occupations including the assembly of electronic components of fans, washing machines, irons, or the manufacture of glass bangles, items of pottery; small scale packaging and assembling of consumables, hand knitting, embroidery, stitching, handicrafts, garments and weaving of carpets and shawls. It also includes clerical and teaching homework and the supply of raw materials. (Carr, Chen & Tate, 2000)

According to World Bank report after agriculture, the most important source of women's employment is home-based work.' (Aurat publication, 1997)

The statistics on the informal economy are unreliable, 'The number of women in the informal labour force possibly stands at 12.79 millions, of whom 8.52 million women, constituting 75 per cent of the total informal sector workers, were home-based workers.'(Aurat publication, 1997)

A survey of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) conducted in 2003 shows that 77 percent of the total female labor force falls within the purview of the informal sector, while 53 percent are classified as home based workers. They also told that most of working women have to hand over their earnings to their parents or husbands.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries women produced and consumed the crafts for the domestic interior. They made crafts at various levels in society and having different motives. At one level, it may have been artistic self-expression; at another level to support financial necessity, or on a third level it may have been for pastime. (Edward, 2006)

Informal Economy comprises of 'small enterprises of one or more persons, with casual or regular employees of less than 10 people.' The workers in this sector fall into the following three categories:

Self-employed women

Home-based workers

Self-employed women

A woman who is self-employed works for herself instead of as an employee of another person or organization, drawing income from a trade or business. Self-employed workers are paid directly by clients or by their business, and some proportion of these payments will be due to the government as income tax. (Haq, 2003)

Home-based workers

Home based women workers fall into two categories: (i) dependent workers who work on a piece rate and usually work for middle persons in a contract chain; and (ii) independent home based workers or own-account workers who produce goods for direct sale through street stalls, shops or the local village and sometimes to traders or subcontractors. (Haq, 2003)

In the last ten years women have become more energetic in business and the private sector. Their participation found in many areas, in which small scale projects as well as large scale private projects are included. Small scale rural projects turns into larg scale private projects. There are a lot of networks which have been established for the women in business. It also empowers the women of a home-base producer or in private sector. (Brouwer, Harris & Tanaka, 1998)

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The unplanned home-based workers represent an important part of working population. There are large number of income producing activities are included in home-based sector in which mostly women workers are engaged. From embroidery to food processing and from craft to coir work are included in these activities. Both in rural and urban areas, there is given very little importance to this unorganized sector and it is due to the workers condition; the working conditions are unspeakable, the wages are extremely low and workers face great worries and exploitations. Home based industrial work is one of the least regulated, least managed, and most risky systems of industrial production however a large number of women workers are tired in this sector just because of lack of personal resources, like education and awareness, non-availability of employment opportunities, and normative practices which control women's mobility outside home. (Sarna & Shukla, 1994)

Liberalisation has improved the employment opportunities for women in some sectors especially in the crafts sector. So there are increased the number of women in participation of home-base craft sector like in embroidery, lace making, weaving and printed textiles. In some cases empowerment of women also increases but in most cases, the working condition of the women workers is poor and they are paid less than men. (Krishnaraj, 1992 cited by Rao, 2005)

Women have a great work load in their lives; they have a double burden, to earn income from their work and also have to fulfill their household responsibilities. They laboring the whole day; generally they work 12 to 16 hours per day and losing their health and energy both. (Durand, 1975 cited by United Nations Economic and social commission for Asia and the pacific, 1987)

Being a embroidery skilled worker, their work requires women to sit long hours in the same restless position and sometime they have to ignore there household duties that resulting in tension, qurels and a lot of deases like eye, back bone, shoulders as well as other mental and emotional problems depending upon the physical environment in which these women live and work. (Sarna &Shukla, 1994)

Wage discrimination is obvious and usually common against women in Asia. Wage rates are as low as one-third or it may be observed that women always paid less of those paid to men. In Jobs also, there are described carefully to discriminate the labour practices involved; female positions typically require few skills and give poor salary. (United Nations Economic and social commission for Asia and the pacific, 1987)

In handicrafts the embroidery work is a traditional art but many women faced some difficulty of marketing their skill. Generally simple embroidery piece do not have sale value except it is the part of gift items.And if the women contect the shop keeper or designers she may sale her prodect but beang a women she is restricted to go outside .so, she have only those customers to know them personally. (Gyanendra & Dastidar, 2000)

Mostly the women's work is under-reported in Pakistan. Purdah is the main reason that stops any direct communication between the enumerator and the female respondent. The household head, usually a male, reports any female activity. Because purdah is a status representation, related with material well-being, and women's work is frowned upon, it is expected that female labour is under-reported. (Whyte, 1982 cited by United Nations Economic and social commission for Asia and the pacific, 1987)

In some traditional industries like jute and cotton textile, mechanization has contributed in the rejection of female employment. Women represent 90 percent of the workers in these industries such as the making of embroidery. But intermediaries and middlemen who provide the raw materials and market the final product, make them badly exploited by only paying the women minimal wages. (Bhatty n.d.; Indian Council of Social Science Research, 1975 cited by United Nations Economic and social commission for Asia and the pacific, 1987)

Crafts production is culturally recognized activity. The skills present in the economic sector and many women adopt and practice it. But they don't get to recognition and value not in the economy and not in the household level. They don't have any financial records, on average it accounts for less than 1% of a household's income. This is not much to lead toward progress. There are too much women who participate in home-craft production but they just have little impact on it.womens are badly exploted by the men even they work for batterly then men. (Freedman & Wai, 1988) s

NGOs should help the home based women workers in the shape groups. Those groups should supply raw materials, make sure appropriate and timely payments, arrange for the credit and support in design development. (Ministry of Labour, 2000).

This is the need of hour to arrange female workers into cooperatives and other organizations where production and marketing are included, and it should sported by the government to stop this high rate of women exploitation. (United Nations Economic and social commission for Asia and the pacific, 1987)


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