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The shawls you will find here are indigenous to Thar Desert, which is known as the most fertile desert in the world. The tribes that live in this region have a strong tradition in agriculture and also mastering a number of crafts that offer both functional purpose and decorative appeal.

In every household in Tabho Meghwar, one can spot khaddis, a type of loom that is used to weave shawls. For the villagers, shawl-weaving is an integral part of their identity and childhood memories, as every child learns this craft from his or her elders. Thus the skill is passed on to the next generation.

Thar Women

I discovered these beautiful shawls on a visit to Pakistan in January 2019 through a retailer, who is a native of interior Sindh but now lives and operates his business in Karachi, Pakistan. As times have changed so has the tradition of shawl weaving. These areas were once famous for sheep wool shawls but people have stopped working with wool because, firstly, the process is long and tedious and, secondly, markets are not easily accessible. This is why villagers now sell their shawls to middlemen.

Weaving a shawl is not an individual effort as all family members, both men and women, contribute in carrying out different tasks. For instance, women are responsible for the extensive and laborious process of arranging wool threads and filling multiple bobbins with coloured thread while the men bind the threads on the khaddis. A single shawl takes about three to four days to complete.

The craft of shawl-weaving not only binds the community together but brings in the much needed income. In winter, which lasts from November to January, Thari people earn a bit more by rearing livestock and doing hand-embroidery work which is sold to middlemen or trade agents.

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An old villager binds threads on a khaddi. Credit: Manoj Genani (2018)

In recent years the impact of changing climate has resulted in highly unpredictable weather patterns with droughts lasting 2-3 years followed by floods. Such dramatic changes in weather have led to the displacement of many families. If the affects of climate change was not enough, it becomes frustrating for villagers when they are not able to sell their products at better prices. Exploitation is widespread with retailers earning up to 4-5 times the price per unit as compared to what pay to the artisans, making their craft less than sufficient to survive on let alone make it a desirable career to pursue.

Moved by the plight of these families, I have decided to create a fair trade channel through this project to support these artisans survive the changing realities of their natural ecosystem and earn a decent living wage and preserve their culture and traditions.

When you purchase a scarf today, you are not just buying a beautiful fashion accessory but rather making a very important investment in supporting this vulnerable community face the impact of climate change and to keep an important, ancient art form alive.