Afghan refugee families sit outside the government registration office preparing to leave for their homeland, in Peshawar, Pakistan. Image Credit: AP

Sharjah: Sharjah-based Nama Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have signed an agreement for offering sustainable income to female Afghan carpet weavers in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

The agreement was witnessed by Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of NAMA and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, during her visit to Pakistan.

The six-day visit included meetings with several entities and institutions in Islamabad and Lahore, and identifying sectors that will benefit from NAMA’s expertise in women’s capacity-building and enabling them access to sustainable sources of income.

The agreement signing was led by Reem BinKaram, director of NAMA, and Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR’s representative in Pakistan, in the presence of Hamad Obaid Al Zaabi, UAE Ambassador to Pakistan.

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Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi witnessing the signing between NAMA and UNHCR in the presence of Reem and Ruvendrini Menikdiwela UNHCR’s representative in Pakistan Image Credit: Supplied

Year-long project

Under the agreement, a one-year crafts-led project will be led by Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi), an affiliate of NAMA, in collaboration with UNHCR to benefit 100 women, including 70 Afghan women refugees and 30 women from the host community of Quetta. They will be commissioned by Irthi to create carpets bearing motifs that reflect Emirati culture. The designs will be exclusive to Irthi.

Pakistan hosts more than 1.4 million registered Afghans who have been forced to flee their homes, of which 68 per cent are women.

Shaikha Jawaher said: “In these numbers, Sharjah and NAMA identified a pressing need for vocational training, livelihood creation and socioeconomic empowerment. Even as the global humanitarian crisis touches an unprecedented extreme, I believe there is something each of us can do, especially with regard to women as, world over, they are disproportionately affected by war, crisis and displacement.”

The visit is reflective of Shaikha Jawaher’s acting on the pledge that His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, took last December at the Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit 2019, to “personally support programmes and efforts to empower women around the world, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America”.

Menikdiwela hailed Shaikha Jawaher’s efforts, saying: “The partnership agreement between us and NAMA will have a positive impact on the lives of several Afghan refugee families, not just from a financial standpoint as it promises them a continued source of income. Such actions have a far-reaching human impact on people who live in the most challenging of circumstances. Any help that comes their way is fondly celebrated as it is a reminder to them that people care about their well-being; that they are not forgotten.”