ISLAMABAD – A 10-day exhibition titled ‘Stitching and Chai’ showcasing hand embellished products by homebound women entrepreneurs opened here at Nomad Art Gallery (NAG). The exhibition has been organised with the support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Entrepreneurs Project as part of US government’s economic growth initiatives in Pakistan. USAID’s economic growth efforts are designed to mitigate the adverse effects of socio-economic conditions prevalent in marginalised communities, and women who face barriers in economic participation. Funded by the American people and implemented by the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), this five-year project was launched in June 2009 to increase the incomes of 75,000 micro-entrepreneurs and small enterprise owners, with particular focus on women, through access to better markets, higher productivity, and improved product quality.   The exhibition showcases a range of hand-embroidered items from Bahawalpur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh that have been social and cultural symbols of rural communities and passed on from generation. Embroideries and techniques such as aari, ahir, chikankari, and chundri, on exquisite kurtas, dupattas, stoles, tops, quilts, shawls, and life style products such as bags, floor and throw cushions, lamp shades, mobile covers, and wall hangings, are the main features of this event.The Entrepreneurs Project specialist Ms. Angela Braid explained that exhibitions such as this, aid in improving marketing and product development abilities of female sales agents and women embellishers. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of home-based women are engaged in producing embellished handmade products and in most cases; this business is the only source of their income. Despite the potential for women embellishers to earn a good living and contribute to the national economy, most of them remain trapped in a cycle of poverty resulting from issues of mobility and access to market information, customers, and trends. She further added that events such as these are helpful in providing sale agents with direct access to customers, enabling them to use customer feedback to refine their products, meet market demand, and improve their economic conditions. The Entrepreneurs Project is working in collaboration with local partners Society for Human and Natural Resource Development LASOONA; Trust for History Art & Architecture (THAAP); Entrepreneurship and Community Development Institute (ECDI); and Water, Environment and Sanitation Society (WESS). The partners have been providing business support services to women sale agents since 2009. To date more than 500 female sales agents have been mobilized to develop their network of over 13,000 women embellishers from low-income communities. The exhibition is showcasing products from more than 15 female group leaders, managing the work of 450 women, from villages across Pakistan. Working under the principle that societies which engage women in their economic development are more prosperous and peaceful. USAID’s Entrepreneurs project is committed to providing assistance that improves lives through strengthening micro, small, and medium-sized private sector businesses, particularly those owned by women. The exhibition will conclude on Tuesday, April 16.