Overcoming disability to build new livelihoods


When Masta Jan was a child, he contracted polio. After recovering from the severe illness, he discovered that he could not walk unaided. Living in Khyber Agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), on the border with Afghanistan, there were few facilities for children living with disabilities. As insecurity swept over FATA causing thousands to flee their homes, his opportunities diminished further. Masta Jan dropped out of formal education and was unable to perform the physical labour that was the only remaining avenue to employment. Instead, it seemed that he would be dependent on his family for the rest of his life.

“I used to roam around doing nothing and would avoid discussion that could lead to my future plans,” he later recalled. “Being physically challenged, living in poverty, I could never think of a bright future for myself and my family.”

One day, however, a friend told Masta Jan that a team from the Sarhad Rural Support Programme would be visiting their village as part of a project supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding from the European Union. This team would select young people for technical skills training courses in order to help rebuild livelihoods and increase social cohesion in FATA.


Masta Jan seized this opportunity and applied for a tailoring course. He was selected and, along with 20 young men from his area, made his way to the training centre in the nearest major city, Peshawar.

Here, he completed a 15 day course organized by UNDP and its partners, aiming to improve access to income generating opportunities through vocational training for young men and women from FATA. Over the course of 120 hours, he learned both the theory and the practice of tailoring. “My hands are now equipped with a skill that can help feed my family with dignity,” he said.


At the end of the training, Masta Jan and the other trainees were provided with certificates and toolkits containing a sewing machine, electric iron and other necessary items to start their own small enterprises.

After completing his training in May 2017, Masta Jan began a paid internship with a master tailor in his area to gain more experience. “Over time, I have improved my skills. For now I receive 150 rupees [US$1.42] as commission on every suit I stich and my average income varies between 7,000 to 10,000 rupees per month, but I expect it to grow further. I am also searching for a suitable place to start my own tailoring shop,” he said. “I feel so proud when I spend the money I have earned through my hard work.”

UNDP’s Support to Returnees and their Communities in FATA programme with 10 million euros funding from the European Union, supports the population of FATA in returning and rebuilding their lives by ensuring educational continuity, strengthened social cohesion and advocating for reforms. Between 2016 and 2018, the project aims to revitalize 450 schools, provide vocational training to 1,800 youth, mobilize 30,000 people for peace building, and provide crisis management training to 45,000 people. This initiative is part of UNDP’s ongoing support under its FATA Transition and Recovery Programme.


  • Under the FATA Transition and Recovery Programme, UNDP supported the establishment of a Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Unit.
  • To date, 1,616 people have received enterprise development support and 3,500 have been provided business management training.
  • 1,694 people, including 800 women, have been provided technical and vocational training

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