The five women’s vocational training centres in Swat are seemingly on track to meet their goals of empowering women to fight poverty and the lure of terrorism through skill development.
Originally set up by the Pakistan Army, many women and girls have come to learn occupational skills such as knitting, sewing, machine embroidery, dress designing, computer courses, spoken English, porcelain work
The Express Tribune visited one of these centres, the Women’s Vocational Training Centre at Gul Kada in Swat. Now run by the Sarhad Rural Support Programme and sponsored by the Citi Foundation, it is a visible success.
“We have had a very positive response from the local community because of our three special courses in computers, spoken English and makeup. There are other vocational centres, but they do not teach these skills,” said Bibi Sajida, manager of the centre at Gul Kada.
Of the teaching staff, she said, “We are affiliated with the Technical Training Board in Peshawar and have an all-female staff, all of whom are well-qualified in their fields.”
Nabila Rauf, assistant manager of the centre, said, “Our students show keen interest in spoken English and computer classes and [have managed to secure jobs] in different organisations.”
Two eager students, Kalsoom and Gul Pan, were sitting in front of a computer. When approached, Kalsoom said, “We are very excited to have the opportunity to learn about computers [as] education without computer literacy is incomplete. We have computer labs in our schools but they are always closed and we are not even allowed to enter those labs.”
Her mother was also a student here and took computer and spoken English courses. “My parents want me to get a modern education because men and women are equal and they should have equal opportunities to learn,” Kalsoom said.
“I just want the government to give opportunities to girls from poor families who cannot afford to get admission [despite wanting] to learn,” she added.
Sana Aman, a fifth grader, was accompanied by her older sister along with other women, both young and old, in a spoken English class. She said, “I want to streamline my studies, so I come here to improve my English.”
Zainab, a 2nd year student, could not study science subjects because there were no science teachers in her school, but she is determined to learn English, “It is the need of the day and I am fond of English anyway.”
Mindar Kor, a primary school teacher attending the class, said, “I want to improve my English so that I can teach my students better.”
Another girl, Gul Sanga, said she wanted to learn English to teach to her children.
The English instructor, Shabana Ghafar, said, “The importance of English is crystal clear in the present day. Most students come here to improve their English to get better jobs, and they are achieving their goals.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2011.
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