A new career: Such a gem
GILGIT, April 11: Mutahar Bano may not be highly educated, but she has an inherent eye for detail. It is no wonder then that she is the only woman from Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) who formally certifies gemstones by gauging their quality.
The 25 years old Bano from Ghizer valley, aiming to take exams of 14th grade this year, has recently obtained a diploma in Gemology from University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Peshawar, by learning techniques and acquiring skills to grade the gemstones before they are exported to international markets.
“It was a wonderful experience to be in the university and learn new things from experts,” says Bano, who is now working at the gemological laboratory set up at the Gems Cutting and Polishing Center, Danyore.
First batch of diploma with a strength of 52 students, it was attended by both men and women. Bano was the only female from G-B, whereas there was another female from Lahore. Other than this, there were three men from G-B as well. “Bano is a quick learner and was one of the active students in the university,” said Nasir Abbas, a resident of Nagar valley who was one of the three other male participants from G-B to attend the diploma course with Bano.
According to Sadia Danish, Bano is a role model for women of G-B. Minister of information, tourism, sports and culture, youth affairs, and women development, Danish said that “We are happy that women from G-B are making their mark in every field.”
Bano is earning Rs25,000 a month. She is married and her husband is working as a driver for an NGO. Whatever the couple earns is a support for the family. They have a child.
The diploma is of four months duration and is funded by USAID under its SGAFP programme titled ‘Technology Transfer and Skill Development in Gems Sector’. They have already set up two gemstone cutting and polishing centres in Hunza and Chitral, training master trainers who are further imparting modern techniques to convert raw material into finished product. The skill will enable hundreds of women to earn a decent living in the long run. The project is being executed in G-B by Rupani Foundation which works to alleviate poverty by enhancing marketable skills of women.
On the basis of the skills she acquired from UET Peshawar, Bano issues certificates which serve as guarantee of the quality and originality of the stones, helping promote quality local gems in the international market. The gems are exported to China, India, France, USA, Germany, Japan and Sri Lanka.
“I am happy that I am the first woman from G-B to do the course which has trained us how to check, assess, and grade gemstones using different equipment and techniques.”
According to estimates, there are over 60 different types of precious and semi-precious stones in G-B. Ruby, emerald, topaz, aquamarine, sapphire, and tourmaline are in abundance.
Bano and her colleagues learned about reflective index, specific gravity and techniques like zooming through microscope which help in grading of precious stones.
G-B is considered depository of gemstones and other minerals as it contributes 70 per cent of Pakistan’s gems exports to the international market. However, lack of identification of gems and their quality assessment is said to be the biggest hurdle in earning due profit. “Despite the hard work, gem miners and dealers cannot get sufficient amount against the product mainly because they lack knowledge and expertise about the quality of the stones,” says chief executive officer of Rupani Foundation Jalaluddin. He said the laboratory will facilitate the gem miners and dealers through proper certification and grading of the stones. “This will go a long way to benefit the region.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2014.