The world has come to know Pakistan as a country riddled for decades by war and violent conflict, with an economy in collapse. Nestled here is the Swat Valley region, once called the ‘Switzerland of the East’ by HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Sadly, today the valley is known for where schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for going to school. This region used to be a thriving community of artisans and cottage industries. Now, it is almost a ghost town, as terrorism and climate change have destroyed livelihoods. Thankfully, two entrepreneurs from the local area want to breathe life back into the Valley by setting up the Swat Valley Guild (SVG), a post-conflict, economic regeneration initiative supporting the local artisans and weavers to access international markets.
This month, founders Wali Khan and Zufi Deo launched SVG on Launch Good, a crowdfunding platform supporting global Muslim community projects. Khan and Deo are hoping to introduce an audience to some of their local artisans and products. On the Launch Good platform, they are showing casing limited edition woolen shawls and ponchos. SVG has also cleverly connected their artisans to work with international designers and artists to give their products a contemporary edge.
Both Khan and Deo are committed to only offering certified ethical goods, creating a special Guild stamp, showing that all their products are eco-friendly and sustainable, honouring fair wage schemes, local training as well as addressing any child labour issues. The Guild is avant-garde, teaching the local ‘makers’ how to use renewable energy to lower pollution in the production process; how to use eco-friendly dyes to reduce pollution of local water sources and about generating 3-D printer sensitive materials for textiles. SVG is also working towards a World Fair Trade Organisation membership. The Guild is not only about regeneration of the area, but also about preserving the Valley’s heritage and ensuring its legacy of crafts continues, because its artisans are rapidly disappearing. On SVG’s main website shoppers can buy ethically sourced gemstones, furniture, textiles, leather goods, honey – every product hand-made and from the Valley.
Already this organisation has some big supporters and champions, and has been invited to join the United Nation’s Business Call for Action program. While award winning British singer, songwriter, Rumer who was born in Pakistan, has taken an interest in this project and says, “The Swat Valley Guild could really provide a practical and real solution to the many of the problems facing communities suffering in the aftermath of post-Taliban conflict in Pakistan. I wholeheartedly support founders, Wali and Zulfi in their wonderful work.”
Khan and Deo believe Launch Good is a great way to engage the public, who will be able to learn about their organisation and its community of artisans. Helping to rebuild this region and hopefully put the Swat Valley back on its rightful map, where it is known again for its peace, beauty and artisans.