Phulkari, which translates to ‘flower work,’ is a form of embroidery done with silk threads, often on cotton clothes. The traditional handicraft from Punjab has been a blessing to the women of Moonak village in the Sangrur district of Punjab, who have found a source of livelihood in it. The hand-made masks they produce with this exquisite embroidery work has been a commercial hit, as the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has made face-masks essential for anyone who goes out in public.
Although Phulkari is a highly intricate work which demands highly skilled artisans, the women behind these masks were not weavers or skilled artisans till now. These are women who have been left with massive debts and, with no formal employment, had no way but to fend for themselves and their children after their husbands died by suicide.
Suicides are a major issue in Punjab – with over 2528 suicides reported between 2015 and 2019 in the State. Reportedly, these deaths are caused primarily due to a decline in their income. According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 7132 suicides -which amount to 5.1% of national total- were reported across Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, in 2019.
This opportunity was made possible for these women - who were in a socially-imposed misery due to their label as “widows” – by a social worker from Delhi.
Ghazala Khan (46), who runs the NGO Building Bridges India (BBI), is the one who gave all the support to these women and helped them build a profitable venture out of it. According to media reports, she had helped about 300 women procure the raw materials for the masks.
"We didn’t have funds to buy land. I approached 10 different gurudwaras of Moonak village to give some space for this cause," Ghazala told News18. The gurudwara authorities happily allotted land free of cost, for these women to continue their work. In fact, they have also provided these women with one-time meals, reported The Quint.