UNICEF-Barclays Helping Adolescents Turn Passion into Profession
By A. Sami Malik
Lahore, Pakistan, 19 November 2013 - 17-year-old Zarri Yousaf has an ambition to become a dress designer and an entrepreneur. Her passion for making beautiful dresses and the desire to help her family attain social status and a comfortable living is her motivation to pursue both formal education and vocational training.
“I dream of becoming a famous dress designer and owning my own boutique”, says Zarri. “I realise that it will not be easy because I belong to a poor family, I have to study, help my mother at home and at the same time learn dress making, but I am trying and will not give up.”
Zarri belongs to a Christian family that lives in a small two-room house located in the courtyard of a church in Anarkali area of Lahore. Her father, Yousaf Masih, is the gateman of the church and the head of a seven-member household. With his meagre resources, it was not possible for Yousaf to afford Zarri’s education and pay for her to learn dress making.
“After the prayers on a Sunday, Father Joseph Lewis, who is in charge of our church, told us that the government has set up vocational training centres where they teach young girls stitching and sewing”, explains Yousaf. “The nearest centre is almost 15 kilometres from my house and I was afraid to send my daughter that far. It is also expensive to commute. But when some other girls from our community started going to the centre, I allowed Zarri to go with them.”
With financial assistance from Barclays ‘Building Young Futures’ project, UNICEF has partnered with the Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) which is managing 174 Vocational Training Institutes across the province, most of which are in rural areas. The objective of the project is to impart comprehensive vocational and entrepreneurial skills to the most excluded adolescents in Punjab province of Pakistan.
During the first phase of the project, 600 adolescent boys and girls are currently being trained as dress makers, beauticians, electricians and motor cycle mechanics. Each training course lasts one year, during which trainees are placed in various industries and businesses for two months to attain practical experience.
Zarri’s talent in dress making gets her special attention from her instructor, Mussarrat Hussian, who says, “Most of the girls in this class are keen to learn stitching and sewing but Zarri has a natural flare for designing. She tells me that she has already started making dresses at home for herself and her sisters. With this training, girls can not only save the tailoring expense, but can also earn a decent income. Zarri realises that and I am sure she would do very well in the future.”
The Vocational Training Institute that Zarri attends is called ‘Special House’. Some of the students in this centre have hearing impairments and the management takes special care that these students get extra attention from their instructors. The principal of this centre, Khalid Javid, says, “We want these students to be able to do well in life just like anyone else. We help our graduates find jobs in various industries and acquire soft loans to start their own business.”
“Most of the students in the centre belong to poor families. Some of them come from far off areas and commuting is expensive. Each student gets only Rupees 500 per month for transportation which is not enough. This results in absenteeism and is a problem for us.”The second phase of the Barclays–UNICEF partnership was launched early this year and aims to help tackle youth unemployment by improving the prospects of 10,000 disadvantaged young people in Punjab, thereby strengthening their economic and social resilience against the devastating challenges of chronic poverty, inequality and changing economic circumstances.
“Adolescents belonging to excluded communities have limited opportunities to enrol in vocational training courses that are extensive, comprehensive and most of all certified by the government, says Shagufta Bhatti, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF. Through this project it is heart-warming to witness opportunities being provided to marginalized and excluded adolescents to gain vocational skills and also learn life skills, which are also part of the training course. I am hopeful that each and every successful adolescent trainee will make a huge difference not only in supporting their families but also, after a year, have increased social resilience.”