Shahida Riaz: Carrying on a legacy

Life has been never easy. I grew up in Kohat, NWFP.  6 sisters and 4 brothers, life was especially hard on my father, who used to handcraft men’s slippers. My mother stayed home and farmed in our fields. Everyone at home tried to make some extra cash. My grandmother used to make baskets, coasters and other stuff out of Palm tree leaves.  I grew up around her, so I learnt the art of basketry early on.  And I started working with my grandmother in her endeavor. My younger sister and I teamed up to help her with products. My mother would take the products to the city and sell them on streets and keep the money for our dowry.Life at my in-laws was even harder. Back in the days, my husband barely made 300 Rs per month in the army.   It was not enough a joint family to survive. My husband was the only one earning. Around that time, my husband decided that we relocate to Karachi.  Relocation meant renting a house, sending kids to school too with the same amount. I had no choice but to look for a job. I started working shortly at a basketry center.

Carrying on the legacy of my grandmother, I started making the same stuff from my childhood, nothing changed though. Life is still harder, kids are still at school, and we pay more for rent now.
WoMart felt like another world. Suddenly my reality changed. I had a smart phone and I was taught how to use it. I was trained to sell the baskets to a lot more people in Pakistan and outside. It still feels like a dream. I make the products with the same passion and love like my grandmother did. It feels like, her essence will live on in my products. Thanks to FACE’s project Womart and British Council for providing this opportunity.

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