UNDP supported skills training programme gives women of FATA options and alternatives
By Naheed Afridi, Social Organiser
For the past year I have been a women’s social organiser with the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) Programme in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). I had an opportunity to visit the Khyber Agency and hear the voices and the concerns of tribal women, the least heard segment of this society.
The women I spoke with lamented that due to limited livelihood opportunities in the area, most of the men were either unemployed or they earn very little, often insufficient to meet their families’ needs. Women in the area are financially dependent on their male family members, but most of the time, the men refuse to take responsibility for them.
RAHA started a two-month vocational and skills development training programme at five different skill development centres in Jamrud, Mullagori and Landikotal districts. The training programmes were designed to improve local women’s livelihoods and living conditions, embolden them in a traditional setting and enable them to become valuable and self-sufficient citizens of Pakistan.
Initially 150 women were trained in block printing, tie-dye, weaving, embroidery and dressmaking. Thirty women took part in training programmes for individual skills. In addition to a stipend of PKR 2500 per month, each trainee was provided with equipment or supplies to start a business (a sewing machine, equipment for block printing or weaving, or material for embroidery or dressmaking). The programme introduced new skills, creating a great deal of interest among the women who took part.
One of the trainees, 28-year-old mother of four Ms. Zainab Bibi, was trained in block printing. Her husband went abroad to work, but has been missing for the last three years. He never sent her money and she does not even know where he is. She was left completely dependent on her in-laws.
Her husband’s family often refuses to support her and her children, even to simply cover their basic needs. Ms Bibi noted that after receiving the skills training she is able to earn enough money to meet her family’s basic requirements.
Since block printing is a new skill in FATA, women are excited about buying block printed shirts, dupattas and bed sheets. Now Ms. Bibi is paying for her children’s education and other household expenses and is very happy to be more independent.
Since I am also a self-made tribal woman and I have suffered from limited or no educational and employment opportunities, I felt strongly for women like Zainab Bibi. She not only lacked opportunities, but also self-confidence. Zainab's new confident demeanour as a self-employed woman seems to me to herald a new dawn for tribal women.