Sidra Altaf is an independent photographer and documentary filmmaker. Having done her BA (Honors) in Business Administration from University of Greenwich, Malaysia, Sidra came back to her hometown Karachi aspiring to show the world through her...
Korangi Industrial Area is located in Korangi District, in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. It is one of the largest industrial areas of Pakistan. It houses approximately 4500 industries, and commercial and trading units including textile, steel, pharmaceutical, automobile, chemical, engineering, and flour mills. The population of Korangi town is 546,504, due to Industrial Zone, several laborers migrate from time to time.
An area infused with industries and its workers. It is one of the formidable areas in Karachi, with broken roads and harsh living conditions as the summers are getting more n hotter with climate change. The roadsides are covered in garbage and have no trees. If you see it from Birdseye, it is a barren land. Government never takes much notice of the working conditions or the welfare of those (including females) that are working in one of the country’s largest industrial sector, when in fact, they are part of the founding stones of the textile industry which contributes significantly to the country’s GDP and have a critical role to play in our society by providing employment opportunities to hundreds of thousands of people. The only infrastructure that the government provides for these factories to run and their employees is the building of pipelines, roads, bridges, sewers and tunnels. But the most important infrastructure based on which the factory workers, majority of whom are female, survive and get through with everyday life is the social infrastructure they construct – the connections and relationships they build based on love.
As I have worked with such communities before as well, and have seen their lives closely. I couldn’t help but think wondered about how the female workers go in everyday to work in this scorching heat. What were the circumstances that compelled them to work in these kinds of working conditions? How they manage their lives by working 12 to 14 hours a day? How they manage their families? Are they the sole bread earners for their families? And the most significant question I need to ask that how government doesn’t pay any heed to these female workers who is part of our society
With all these concerns and questions raising in my mind, I felt a need to highlight these autonomous communities through intimate infrastructure of care, generosity, trust and love. My work is a cultural study of the uniform levels of relation and human connections. Working with these family I reveal how people work, dream and find joy in the most different and challenging condition and how people feel differently about every situation in their life.
This “Infrastructure of Love” provides necessary support to these women in a life where they face several hurdles—domestic, social, and economic— at all fronts. In most gruelling conditions, these women have to work 12-14 hours a day in one of the hundreds of textile factories in Karachi to make a living. Much has been written and researched about the back-breaking and difficult working conditions women face within the factories. But few have asked how do these women—wives, bhabi, mothers, and family matriarchs—manage to raise children, build homes, care for family members, find safety and protection, deliver education and child-care, provide food, develop friendships and support each other.
I need to highlight these autonomous communities through intimate infrastructure of care, generosity, trust and love. My work is a cultural study of the uniform levels of relation and human connections. Working with these family I reveal how people work, dream and find joy in the most different and challenging condition and how people feel differently about every situation in their life.
My project is a novel take on understanding the lives of these women.
With this project “Infrastructure of Love”, I aim to examine the world of female textile workers living in the outer lying slums of Karachi, where people struggle to access the basic necessities of life. I will be documenting, in written and visuals, the human and social infrastructure of care, support and provision that helps millions of low-wage text workers, particularly women, to survive.
“Hassena is among thousands of workers living in Korangi Industrial Area, a tall thin structured lady, with deep features dominated by her expressive light brown eyes. she had moved from Nawabshah to Karachi with her family in search of employment. She is the only breadwinner of her family. She is a hardworking woman who is determined to do everything for her children and their education. She, herself, is not educated. Her mother used to work in the fields after her father had passed away. Haseena has now been working in the Stitching department of a Textile factory for over 5 years. According to her this is the only skill she knows.”
When I first met her, she was busy in her work, in factory, and when I was introduced to her, she gave me this powerful vibe of a woman who is against all her odds working with determination, and full of humility and grace. We chatted for a brief moment, she invited me to her house to come and share a cup of tea with her and family.
Her house was located on a narrow alleyway, without even proper roads or streets leading up to it. It was late afternoon, her house lit up with golden light. It is a three-story building with her land lady living on the ground floor and Hassena on the third floor, a narrow staircase leading toward the other floors of the building. The house opens to a veranda, a small kitchen in the corner, with only one living room.
She welcomed me with open arms and showed me great hospitality. I still remember her beautiful smile and the spark in her eyes. Not even once they make me feel that I was an outsider and I don’t belong in their small world. I connected with her instantaneously.