Srinagar, July 15, KDC: The All-Party Parliamentary Group on India (Trade and Investment) and Kings College London had invited Mujtaba Kadri, founder of the luxury pashmina brand, Me&K, to participate in a dynamic roundtable discussion on ‘Gender Inclusivity in the UK-India Trade and Investment Relationship.’
The two-hour roundtable was hosted at the House of Lords in the UK Parliament in London on 12th July. The session was chaired by Baroness Prashar, who shares a deep interest and experience in the area of gender-inclusive trade.
The conversation focused on the following four questions:
- How does trade and trade facilitation policies impact women?
- What can firms and governments do to ensure that the benefits of trade in India are more equitably distributed?
- What are the challenges in designing trade policies that are more inclusive of women? How can we overcome them?
- How can civil society build awareness amongst consumers to make purchasing decisions that are mindful of gender inclusivity?
During the introduction, Kadri highlighted the work undertaken by Me & K to empower women and revive the art of hand spinning pashmina in Kashmir. He emphasized that in today’s world there is a growing demand for slow and sustainable fashion, and that Kashmir’s pashmina and other traditional textiles exemplify sustainability, having stood the test of time for centuries.
Kadri discussed the significant role played by women in the pashmina industry, particularly in the highly skilled work of hand spinning, but also in other processes such as embroidery. To ensure fair wages for women, Kadri highlighted the potential of the ‘Kashmir Pashmina’ GI tag. The GI tag comes with a QR code on each hand-spun pashmina detailing and authenticating the production process. Given that 80% of wages paid in the manufacture of hand spun, hand woven pashmina products goes to female workers, Kadri urged the MPs and the Chair to promote ‘Kashmir Pashmina’ as a way to empower women and increase their financial independence. He requested them to encourage the UK government to allow duty-free import of ‘Kashmir Pashmina’ with a GI mark, as this would further incentivize entrepreneurs and designers to utilize ‘Kashmir Pashmina’ in their creations. Increased demand resulting from such promotion would in turn uplift women’s wages.
Kadri explained that one of the key aspects of trade is direct connection between buyers and markets. However, Kashmir has faced a disadvantage for the past 33 years due to negative travel advisories issued by the UK government. Consequently, companies have been hesitant to send personnel to Kashmir for trade purposes, significantly impacting export trade in the region. The chair and the APPG expressed surprise at this information and assured that they would address the issue at the appropriate forum.
The chair of the APPG expressed interest in organizing a meeting in Kashmir in the near future. (KDC)