Project: Culture and Conflict

This article focusses on the findings and recommendations specific to Pakistan from the Culture and Conflict project. Overall findings for the project can be found here.

Working across four countries, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, this research investigates the value of culture to women in conflict settings, seeking to understand gendered economic exclusion and its relationship to peacebuilding, economic agency and empowerment. It uses a cultural mapping methodology to explore how communities of women across different conflict contexts rely on coded and tacit knowledge to rebuild their lives and to understand how cultural practices continue to exist and resist in these challenging contexts.

The following article focusses on the findings and recommendations from Pakistan specifically. You can find findings for Afghanistan, India, and Sri Lanka linked here and below.

  • The relationship between the maker of the craft, the practice of making, the landscape, the animal, the raw materials and the tool is a very intimate relationship. While the economic value of their product is important, the makers in this context emphasised the practice as an expression of cultural identity. Proper documentation and appreciation of the practices themselves have not happened because only processes with clear and scalable economic value are prioritised and focusses upon.
  • The ability to generate an income gives the women greater autonomy in decision making, particularly in relation to marriage. Generating a sustainable livelihood is a short way of pushing back against early marriage.If the women are generating a decent income, the pressure to marry after turning 21 is less. For some of the women who were already married it led to a greater respect from their spouse in their marriage.
  • Women’s engagement in craft is supported through feminist movements within their region. Feminist movements in Pakistan which support women’s ambitions to work and build incomes and careers have engaged with this project. Some of them are part of the focus groups and have cascaded this craft-based approach to sustainable incomes, through discussion groups and training, widely in their region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa allowing for wider outreach and impact footprint of the project.
  • Early marriage and forced marriage shifts. Women from the focus groups indicate the pressure to be married early to men not of their choice. There are economic reasons presented for this to them by their parents. Some young women in our focus groups indicated negotiation for time to remain unmarried on account of craftworking. This project, and its projected success has allowed them to attend training in person. They have learned not only about design and enterprise, but specific skills related to their individual work. Income generated from commercialising research gives them a much-needed financial boost to invest in raw material and build their craft businesses independently, pushing back on marriage through the argument for an economic independence.

Pakistan Government

  • Include women in remote and hard to access regions for sustainable economies. Women from hard to access remoter regions must be included in an equitable manner in research. This includes funding their travel in safe and appropriate manner, which is agreeable with them and their family members. Provision of childcare of work settings in which young children are welcome and catered to is important. Time delays due to access should be factored into the design of the programme.
  • Limitations of governance and political stability. This should be closely mapped in project design, accommodating political events like elections, social and religious events where women face enhanced burdens of childcare and care duties should be clearly mapped into research design.
  • Practices of making in Pakistan should be understood and supported within their contexts. Craft making, and practices which are embedded within community structures should be valued and supported to enhance value to makers and their families. Limitations of access to materials and spaces should be clearly built into policy and programming for economic development.

Cultural Organisations, Ministries and Scholars

  • Document and map cultural practices that have held communities together. There is very limited documentation or literature of cultural practices in this context and a real risk that some knowledge may be lost. The documentation of such cultural practices through processes led by the communities themselves should be prioritised. 
  • Concepts of heritage that are linked to ecologies of making and landscapes of production must feature in cultural development. Long standing histories of making, the made, the maker, the language, the environment, and patterns of making across seasons intersects with project design and methodology and research outcomes. Longevity of practices which are resilient, and their nuances are worthy of mapping and for learning from.