KARACHI: Pakistan's first shop selling handmade craft items by artists with disabilities opened in the seaside metropolis of Karachi, southern Sindh province on Saturday.
The outlet, Jiddat, is attached to Karachi Vocational Training Center (KVTC) in the upscale Defence House Authority neighborhood. The center provides education and therapy to young people with intellectual disabilities and runs a job placement program for them.
"This is the first outlet in Pakistan exclusively selling the work of special children," KVTC creative director Bushra Mir told Arab News.
Jiddat artists are trained by KVTC in techniques such as block printing, screen printing, embroidery, tailoring and woodwork.
"Previously, we would sell their work at exhibitions, but then we came up with the idea of Jiddat, to sell the great craft produced by these exceptionally talented disabled persons," Mir said.
Human Rights Watch estimates that the number of people living with various intellectual and physical disabilities in Pakistan, a country of 220 million, wildly varies from 3.3 million to 27 million.
Pakistani law requires that 2 percent of people employed by an establishment be "disabled persons." A Supreme Court ruling from August last year obliged the federal and provincial government to take steps to realize equal participation of people with disabilities in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Pakistan ratified in 2011.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah who inaugurated the outlet promised that his government would give work opportunities to 5,000 disabled persons by 2030 and would support the center.
"This is a gigantic task and the KVTC and its team deserves appreciation and our support,” Shah said, adding that similar outlets should be opened in every part of Sindh province.
Being able to sell their work — from home accessories to apparel — gives Jiddat artists a sense of achievement.
"They feel accomplished to get money through their own hard work. The parents are also very happy," Mir said.
One of the artists, Mudassar Faisal, could not continue his education at an ordinary school and stopped at grade six before he joined KVTC.
"He stuck as he couldn’t concentrate and his parents surrendered, but the good thing they did was to bring him to the center. After his eight years in the center, Mudassar now not only produces wood trays and trollies and other accessories made of wood but has also resumed his studies," Farah Deeba, a KVTC teacher, told Arab News.
Another artist, seventh grader Quratul Ain, has Down syndrome. Handicraft training helped her flourish, and she is already winning awards in art competitions.
"Quratul Ain not only has established herself as a good artist in past three years but is also good in her studies," Deeba said.
KVTC is already planning to open more Jiddat outlets.
"This is one Jiddat," Mir, the creative director, said. "We are expanding and will have many more!"