The need for women empowerment in Pakistan was first espoused by none other than Mr Jinnah himself, even well before the birth of Pakistan. In a speech at Aligarh in March 1944, he stated: “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you.”
The need assumes an even higher importance when one considers how misogyny seems to be flourishing. For example, harassment of women using public transport, at the workplace – and discrimination in general.
Typically, the present focus on empowering women is creating income-earning opportunities. However, not all programmes have been successful and some initiatives were ill-conceived to start with. Other interventions fail after an initial period because usually their objectives have more to do with image-building of the project sponsors, rather than the long-term sustainability of the project itself.
In this scenario a unique new initiative has been launched, introducing new dimensions in women empowerment.
TAF Foundation’s Vocational Training Institute (TAFF-VTI) works towards the structured skill development of less privileged women, thereby producing a much-needed skilled workforce and creating sustainable livelihoods. Research reveals that there is a significant shortage of qualified labour to meet the demands of higher income households in various categories of domestic help. This also applies to the services sector for trained female staff.
The programme is built around three tiers: Recruitment, Training and Placement and apart from providing training, it also ensures the placement of graduates in employment with premium remuneration, i.e., PKR 15,000 to 30,000 per month, compared to their current earning potential of approximately PKR 4,000 to 8,000 per month.
The trained women thus not only acquire professional skills, but hugely evolve in terms of confidence and interpersonal skills, and enjoy dignity and respect in their families and in their neighbourhoods. Many of them have become role models in their communities.
Women recruited in low-income neighbourhoods are trained in five key areas: cooking, housekeeping, financial empowerment, professionalism, and ethics and values. Thus, besides vocational skills, students are legally empowered through awareness creation about important topics like fundamental and contractual rights. Through financial empowerment, students acquire basic financial literacy in terms of saving techniques, the importance of having a bank account, creating and managing household budgets, smart shopping, etc. Finally, students are given training on various aspects of behaviour and etiquette, communication skills, self-management and values of work. The trained women thus not only acquire professional skills, but hugely evolve in terms of confidence and interpersonal skills, and enjoy dignity and respect in their families and in their neighbourhoods. Many of them have become role models in their communities.
Marketing companies are advised to support TAFF-VTI through grants or products, or in other ways – even as CSR. These empowered women, moving up from the bottom of the pyramid into a societal segment with more disposable income, are not only potential consumers themselves, they are also important influencers in the households and commercial establishments where they are employed.
Zohare Ali Shariff is CEO, Asiatic Public Relations Network and blogs at www.bobbhai.com.pk