A drive to succeed

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Like many young men in the restless neighbourhood of Lyari in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, 19-year-old Ibrar Hussain has fought poverty and violence since childhood. A member of the impoverished and marginalized Kutchi community, when Ibrar was only in Grade 5, his father informed him that he could no longer afford to continue his education. But instead of dropping out, Ibrar began to take up part-time jobs to be able to keep going to school.

“I’ve been on the roads since I was in class 5. Imagine what a life I’ve led,” he says today with a wry laugh.

Violence was never far from Lyari’s streets. Four of Ibrar’s uncles, two cousins and one aunt have died in gang violence. Some of his earliest memories are of seeing his cousins and neighbours patrolling the streets with guns. Ibrar was also asked to play his part in guarding the neighbourhood, but refused so he could focus on his work and studies.

Over the years, Ibrar worked as a chaiwalla (tea boy), daily labourer in a steel factory and a shopkeeper. When he was old enough, he tutored other children. In this way, he made his way through intermediate education. Yet such odd jobs offered few prospects for a sustainable livelihood which would help him advance in life.

One day, whilst looking for a new job, Ibrar learned about the Youth Employment Project supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Through a partnership with the Sindh  Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority and major Karachi-based members of the garment industry, the Youth Employment Project offers training to some of the city’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable youth. This training programme is designed to respond to employer needs and links young people to work placements. The project seeks to help build sustainable livelihoods, foster economic growth, and reduce susceptibility to violence, aiming to provide demand-driven skills to 13,000 Karachi youth by 2020.

Under this programme, Ibrar learned that the could train as a machine operator in a garment factory. He enrolled and, and soon after completing the programme, was hired by the Pelican garment factory as a computerized machine operator.

Today, Ibrar makes a dependable income of Rs14,000 (US$ 140) a month – a sum that increases when orders go up. His training and job has enabled him to get out of the grind of menial work, and given him a way to continue his education. He plans to keep working in the garment industry until he has made enough money to pursue an MBA. The experience has also motivated him to help ensure his peers are not left behind in their struggles with poverty. He has joined a local education committee to help other young people advance through education and training. “I will continue to fight for a better life – for myself and for others,” he says.