They say it takes a village to raise a child, but here in Pakistan, it takes more than that to keep a female child in school. That is exactly what Saba Gul, a young Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate, is busy doing.
On the evening of May 14, at T2F, Saba Gul spoke about her social enterprise BLISS, and how the idea sprung up in her mind to change lives.
An engineer by degree, she moved towards the social development sector after she heard a lecture at her alma mater that inspired her to move back home and do something for young girls residing in the northern areas of the country, who, Gul believed, should be in school. Instead, they were busy earning for their family members.
“The need that I saw in Attock in the winter of 2009,” said Gul, “changed my thoughts. I personally felt that the young girls’ skills needed to be marketed and hence, I began to work on making this idea a reality.”
Thus came about Business and Life Skills School (BLISS), which focuses on empowering young girls in Pakistan through education and entrepreneurship. “We are attacking the problem of children choosing work over school. Our plan is based on the fact that education can be combined with work.”
Today, at two schools based in Attock, as many 30 young girls are receiving school education. As they learn English, Maths and Urdu, they are also busy engaging their craft-making skills and producing beautifully coloured embroidered hand bags.
Their craft is marketed through the venture Bags for BLISS, which offers six unique bag designs. The price range of these bags fall between Rs3,000 to Rs9,000.
According to Gul: “The idea behind this remains to provide them an incentive to come to school, for a very formal education but at the same time, allow them to participate in this project and earn a decent amount so that they can contribute in their homes.”
For Saba Gul, who makes sure that the money that comes from selling these bags goes directly to these girls, the biggest short-term goal remains, “increasing the enrolment of these young girls in school.”
With the Pilot Project in Attock, Gul believes she can take her initiative as a plan to expand to other cities as well. Gul plans to “to market these bags by taking down orders online and developing stocking partnerships in the other cities over the next few months”.
Gul also hopes to tap into larger markets abroad. “Next year we plan to launch the product in the UK and USA.”
Saba Gul is holding her second exhibition in Lahore, on May 28-29, at Maisonette Luxury Apartments, in Gulberg.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2011.