For the majority of Pakistan’s almost 100 million women, life remains tough.
Pakistan is a place of great contradictions. Despite having had an elected female leader - Benazir Bhutto - long before many European countries, Canada, or the US, it has one of the lowest education rates for women in the world. It is home to a number of high-quality educational institutions-- including perhaps the best liberal arts school in South Asia (The National College of Arts)-- but for most parts remains a very conservative society. It has seen the rise of women with rare courage such as Malala Yousofzai, but fights them at every turn.
Pakistan is also a place of great beauty, dream-like mountains and never-ending valleys. Deep in some of these mountains 1000 women across 19 collectives are fast at work creating beautiful bags and accessories.
Polly and Me is a social enterprise created by Australian sisters Cath & Ange Braid in Chitral, Pakistan. The sisters first visited Chitral in 2000 and identified an untapped potential in this rural community: the women. Partnering with a local NGO to start a women’s embroidery collective, they established a social enterprise where female artisans could make hand-embroidered textiles for accessories. In the conservative mountainous communities of Chitral, there are very few socially acceptable work opportunities for women outside the home and Polly and Me provides an outlet for women to turn their embroidery skills into economic opportunity. The Braid sisters inspire change by empowering women. “I feel like the president of Pakistan!” says Zaibonda, one of the women for whom joining an embroidery workshop has brought a level of economic freedom and renewed self-confidence.
Polly and Me is a shining example of what women can accomplish when they are given the opportunity - even if they live in isolation and have had little access to education.
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