Women Empowering Women
Can Jewelry Making Change lives?
It takes a village they say. And I certainly experienced that when I started Daria Day. I founded Daria Day to provide artisans living in remote mountain communities in Northern Pakistan with a sustainable livelihood. I had lived and worked in the region and had witnessed the vulnerable and precarious conditions under which these are artisans were living. I wanted to empower them and give them an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty. I wanted them to be able to pursue their dreams just as we do.
As I set about building my jewelry brand and reaching out to the artisans, I came across other groups of women who shared my vision but were looking for ways to increase their impact. These women had established collectives or workshops to empower these artisans. We banded together and decided to work together. Together we could reach more artisans, expand the regions we work in Northern Pakistan, reach more customers. Together we could have a larger impact.
Today, on International Women’s Day, I would like to introduce you to one such inspiring woman, Benazir Amjad. I first met Banazir last summer when I visited her husband’s jewelry store in Hunza. Upon hearing my mission, he immediately called his wife down. Benazir and I chatted and formed a partnership to work together. She was looking for more work for her artisans and I had work to give.
Daria Day (DD) Before we begin, could you tell us a little about yourself
Benazir Amjad (BA): My name is Banazir and I am from this region. I have a Bachelor of Science from the University of Karachi and work as an Agriculturist at the Ministry of Agriculture in Hunza. I have two boys, Kumail and Hassan, who keep me very busy.
DD: Tell us more about how you started working with the artisans
BA. Four years ago, I decided to establish a female artisan collective in Northern Pakistan. My husband owns the oldest gems store in the region. I realized that through his business, I had a readymade platform to help these artisans and empower them economically. I invested some of my own money to buy jewelry making and gemstone cutting equipment and created a space in the shop where the artisans could come together and work on projects. Through this work, women can earn an income and provide for themselves and their families.
DD: What motivated you to establish an artisan collective?
BA: My inspiration to create change comes from my experience growing up with financial hurdles myself. I have 4 sisters and 2 brothers. My father was a farmer, and my mother managed the household. I know what it is like to be a female and have limited opportunities to better yourself. So I decided to work every day to help women empower themselves economically and gain confidence. Today, I work with 175 women who are involved in various roles, including marketing and product creation.
DD: What regions does your collective work in?
BA: I run and manage artisan groups in 5 districts in Hunza, including Karimabad, Altit, Dorkhan, Aliabad, and Hyderabad.
DD: Do you train these women in gemstone cutting and jewelry making?
BA: No, I don’t provide them with training. Multiple NGOs are active in the area of training women in jewelry making and gemstone cutting, so they are well trained. While female artisans have the skills to do work, they don’t have the resources to make use of their talents. Artisans require access to materials, jewelry making tools and projects to complete for clients. I got into this work to provide resources and projects for artisans.
DD: Tell us a little bit about the women you work with.
BA: I select women to be a part of the collective based on their skills. The artisans range in age from 20 to 45 years old. These women come from low-income backgrounds and were not given the opportunity to pursue higher education. There’s a mix of single and married women, some of whom are widowed. Most of these women have children so their lives are already very busy and have to juggle work and family.
"Empowerment doesn't come from the outside. It comes from within." - Benazir Amjad
DD: What are some of the challenges that you face in running your artisan collective?
BA: One of the biggest challenges in working with artisan collectives is the shortage of raw materials. Material shortages mean that artisans are unable to complete their projects. Large orders can sometimes be difficult to complete due to a lack of jewelry making tools. Lack of reliable electricity in Hunza is also a major problem because when there’s no power, artisans aren’t able to work. Hunza also experiences heavy snowfall and extreme cold temperatures in the winter, during which artisans are not able to work.
DD: How do you assign work to the artisans?
BA: The work that I have varies based on the number of orders I receive from clients. I give artisans targets on how many pieces to complete per week. Artisans complete jewelry projects at the workspace in the store and handicraft assignments at home.
DD: Can you tell us about the impact this work has on the lives of the artisans?
BA: The artisans I work with are resilient and tenacious who work every day to take care of their families and do better for themselves. One artisan named Shirzadi aspires to run her own business creating handicrafts and selling them. A group of three women plans to open a small restaurant in the region serving local dishes to tourists.
DD: What are your aspirations for your artisan collective?
BA: The collective currently works in 5 districts. My dream is to expand the collective and work in more regions and reach more women. I want to give them a better life, hope for a brighter future both for this generation and the next.
DD: It seems like the collective, your children and your day job keeps you very busy. Do you find time to relax?
BA: (Laughs) Free time is indeed rare. But when I have time, I love to cook and experiment with new recipes.
P.S. Benazir's collective handcrafted the two statement necklaces and lapis earrings that makeup our Midnight Sky Collection
P.P.S Much like the rest of our work, this blog was the result of teamwork. The interview was conducted remotely by Daria Day's marketing intern, Caroline Joannes.
I had a chance to visit Hunza last September and also visited their jewellery shop. I was so impressed, they way they professional handle customers. They are doing a great job and wish them all the success in their efforts.