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Monday, March 19, 2012

Empowerment through entrepreneurship

The majority of women in Pakistan do not have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Illiteracy and cultural constraints keep them for standing up for their civil, political, legal and economic rights. Recognising this, a group of students from the University of Peshawar initiated a social action project to empower women through entrepreneurship. The aim of the project is to provide rural women with opportunities to utilise their skills and creativity which in turn, will give them the freedom to improve their financial condition. Moreover they wanted to ensure equal opportunities for the women of their community, and to create a space where they can utilize their skills and creativity.

The group comprises of students of Peshawar University who met at an Active Citizens training workshop organised by the Institute of Social Work, Sociology & Gender Studies. They named their group the Youth Promotion Social Development and chose to work in Nowshera, a flood-affected district where women are at a greater disadvantage: having lost their homes, their possessions and all semblance of a normal life. Working with the rural women they came to the realization that most of them were illiterate; neither had they received any vocational training which would have enabled them to generate income.

The active citizens organised a workshop where, as a first step towards building confidence, the rural women were encouraged to speak out about the problems they faced in their day-to-day lives, their dreams and their ambitions. The second phase of the workshop was a training session of ten days, during which 25 women were taught how to make hand bags, wall hangings, embroidered pieces and bangles.

Once the training was completed, the group organised an exhibition to introduce, promote and market the work among the general public. The group hopes to develop this model into a successful enterprise and use the funds generated from the sales to improve the condition of the women in Nowshera.