BANDIPORE: In a bid to preserve the traditional attire and cultural heritage of the Gujjar community in Jammu and Kashmir, Shahida Khanum, social sciences graduate from Bandipora, is emerging as a role model. She has the Noor Centre with an avowed objective to revive the fading art of knitting, embroidery, stitching, and jewellery making that were once essential skills for Gujjar women.
The Centre is a success story and she is working to expand the service.
The younger generations of the quasi-nomadic tribe, is increasingly losing interest in the traditions and craftsmanship they inherited from their ancestors. The art of making traditional skull caps, which was passed down through generations, is fading away.
Driven by her concern for the dying culture, Shahida opened the Noor Centre in her native Aragam village in the fall of 2022. Around fifty girls from the area are currently learning various skills such as stitching, jewellery making, embroidery, and the creation of traditional dresses and skull caps for tribal men and women.
Shahida acquired her skills from her family members, including her mother, an expert in Sozni (Needlepoint embroidery technique), and her sister-in-law, who completed an industrial training diploma in knitting, tailoring, and embroidery.
The Noor Centre, although not receiving financial support from the government, has garnered a positive response from the local community. The centre aims to reclaim the lost glory of tribal attire and empower women economically. The trainees, mostly graduates or having completed secondary and higher secondary education, attend the centre, which operates from 10 am to 4 pm, providing one-hour training sessions for each skill.
Shahida’s father, Abdul Majeed, a government employee, has supported his daughter’s initiative by offering her space.