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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It takes two – Active Citizens open up new avenues in Multan

As young people growing up in Suraj Miani – a neighbourhood of Multan – Abdul Rahman and Shumaila Bibi always felt the absence of IT training institutes in the area. The nearest computer training institute is 7 – 8 kilometres away and the nearest internet café is 3 kilometres away.

Perhaps the absence of a technology institute is felt more acutely by young girls and women of the area. Multan being a conservative city, relatively more avenues for personal growth are open to men than women. This includes opportunities for higher education and professional courses. After graduating high school most women face added restrictions by their families, and unnecessarily venturing out of homes is frowned upon.

At the Active Citizens training that they attended Abdul Rahman and Shumaila proposed a facility where the residents of Suraj Miani – especially women could benefit from technology education and brush up their language skills.

 A local NGO offered them space in their offices to hold the classes, and the youth group managed to arrange 4 computers for the classes – including their personal lap top computers. Now came the hard part: convincing parents of young girls to let them attend the free computer and English classes.

Abdul Rahman and Shumaila arranged two separate meetings: one at the Union Council head quarters for the male members of the community, and one for women and young girls at the residence of a community member. Besides these community meetings the young Active Citizens also took part in a door-to-door awareness campaign to recruit students for the coaching centre.

When asked about the problems faced by the youth group, Abdul Rahman responded that: “the biggest hurdle faced by us was convincing parents of young girls to let them attend the classes. The area we live in is very conservative and women stepping out of their houses are frowned upon”.

Ultimately 90 women and 25 men signed up for the computer classes. As a bonus the young women were also offered and English language course taught by Shumaila while Abdul Rahman along with another volunteer teaches the computer classes. The students are tested after the course is completed and successful candidates are awarded a certificate by the youth group. The ages of the students range from 14 years to 23 years and classes are held four days a week.

Besides acquiring technical skills the training also gives the students the confidence to pursue more challenging opportunities. A clear indication of this is the fact that 3 girls after successfully attending the computer course managed to get jobs in private schools where they teach Microsoft Word and Excel to young female students. This has also inspired other women to sign up for the classes.


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