Skilled Women: A Distant Dream in Kashmir

Skilled Women: A Distant Dream in Kashmir
  • 2

Dr Bilal Ahmad Dar

Kashmir has always had a strong legacy of unique hand-crafted products. The craftsmanship of the arts and crafts embodies a tradition, which lives in the creative imagination of the artists of the state. The beauty and charm of its crafts has always been a source of attraction to foreign tourists, from time immemorial, Kashmir has carved out a name for itself in the field of handicrafts. The gifted artisan could produce wonderful objects of craft from simple materials. Their rare artistic skill has been streamlined in the manufacture of exquisite household pieces. The state’s unique topography and the gracious nature bestowed their choicest blessings on the artisans. Kashmiri handicraft items are acknowledged to be among the best everywhere due to their beauty, elegance and exquisite designs.
The handicraft sector plays a vital role in income and employment generation and has also been recognized worldwide as a tool for poverty reduction. It is a means of preserving and promoting cultural and artistic traditions, such as various techniques and skills of traditional crafts are transmitted from generation to generation. For many countries, the significant unique cultural heritage is retained in their handicrafts. Although, the importance of handicraft industry has been understood long before, this sector has undergone several challenges such as industrialization and globalization consequently; the artisans were incapable to compete with well-organized industrial unit and had to sell their products at lower prices. Industrialization changed the lifestyle and customer’s needs, and as a result, handicraft products lose the market slowly. Consumers of handicraft products decreases as industrial products become more sophisticated, which forced the artisans to abandon their business and move to the cities for earning income.
As a result, several traditional crafting skills and techniques have disappeared as fewer younger generation people are interested in learning the tradition .Consequently, handicrafts have faded away and lost their place in society while industrial products flourished, due to their superiority in durability of materials and their economical values .In an era of globalization and rapid economic change, this heritage needs to be identified and protected or it may disappear forever.
The handicraft work is common in Kashmir, where mostly females having learnt the handicraft skills, actively engaged in raising a livelihood for their families. Females from all age are engaged in doing embroidery skills as majority of them are young. The learning of embroidery is formal for majority of them, as they don’t undergo any specific training as generation are following the same practice for years but indeed it needs special skills to do it properly. Handicrafts can play an important role in women’s economic empowerment, especially in rural areas, where it is generally practiced at local family level while the promotion of this work can earn good economic return for the better livelihood and economic expansion for the state.
But the irony is that despite this skill work is in practice for many years in the state, it is facing many hurdles and lacks proper guidance and support both from the government and the society.
The government should create conditions leading to the economic empowerment of women in Kashmir. They should be provided opportunities to play their role at all levels and in all types of development activities. They must have the opportunity and be provided with an environment to develop their talents. Local women should get the possibility to enter all types and all levels of education and training. Education and training facilities should be provided to a large extent on the inputs women are already providing.
It is harder to challenge the long-cherished traditions of the society a change in the status quo will take a long time. It is the history, culture and tradition, which determines the status quo in a society and it, is also a fact that the history and tradition cannot be abandoned immediately and completely.

The author holds a PhD from Jaipur National University. He can be reached at: