Carving out a better life

Several wooden spoons and forks are perched on a table as Fatima puts the finishing touches on another one. Around her, other carpenters are carving signs, measuring material, and smoothing out large pieces of wood for new projects. Working in a comfortable rhythm, they all appear at ease in the workshop.

Carving out a better life: The women carpenters of Hunza Valley

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In many ways, this carpentry workshop nestled in the Hunza valley in Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan is like many others around the world. There is one notable exception: all the carpenters here are women.

The Women Social Enterprise currently employs over 90 young women in seven technical trades, including carpentry, masonry, and architectural services. Most have come from poor and marginalized communities, and through the initiative have been able to earn an income and support their themselves and their families while acquiring technical skills.

Programs such as this offer much more than just financial gain. By empowering women with “non-stereotypical” skills and the ability to earn money independently, the Women Social Enterprise helps break down gender stereotypes. Women participating in the initiative are now able to contribute more to their household finances, and have more decision-making power in their households and communities.

Empowering women and narrowing the gender gap in the labour market are essential to ending poverty. When women are engaged as equals, they contribute significantly to overall improved quality of life and opportunities for their families and for whole communities. Supporting initiatives like the Women Social Enterprise helps ensure communities are set to succeed in meaningful and sustainable ways.

In many ways, it’s a carpentry workshop like any other. The hum of machines and the rhythmic tapping of tools is in the background as the carpenters carefully build their latest creations.

How commonplace it seems might just be the most powerful thing in the room.

Learn more:

  • The Women Social Enterprise is part of a broader, Canadian-supported initiative enhancing youth employment and leadership in northern Pakistan. Meet more of the inspiring young women and men who are crafting new opportunities for themselves and their communities here.
  • To learn more about our work empowering women and youth, check out our mountaineering skills training program here.

Financial support:

Global Affairs Canada