Barclays and UNICEF Help Adolescents Brighten Their Futures
By: Fatima Shahryar
Lahore - Punjab - June 2014: “My mother and older sister used to make and sell beaded embroideries," says Saba Asghar (18), a resident of Madina Colony, Lahore. “Sister got married and embroideries fell out of fashion. My family faced a financial crunch. I was eager to contribute to our household income. For that, I got myself enrolled in the dress-making class at the vocational training centre. It not only enabled me to earn but also gave me hope for a better future.” Saba’s father, Mohammad Asghar, runs a small welding workshop earning around 15,000 Rupees per month (USD 150). She lives in a one-room house with her parents and three younger siblings. The family pays a monthly rent of 5,500 rupees (USD 55) for this small place. Since Saba’s formal education was discontinued after the primary level, she could neither contribute to her family’s income nor was she hopeful of a better future.
Through some of the girls in her neighbourhood, Saba learned about the dress-making course being offered at one of the centres established by the Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC). Having some aptitude for sewing and stitching, Saba instantly decided to avail the opportunity and got herself enrolled in the ten-month dress-making course. After successful completion of the course, Saba is now working at a small garment factory where she manages to earn around 5,000 Rupees per month (USD 50).
"It not only enabled me to earn but also gave me hope for a better future.”“Saba’s concepts about dress-making are clear and with a little guidance she produces great quality of work,” says Mohammad Talib, the factory owner. “Being an employer, I really appreciate the efforts of PVTC for training these young people and providing skilled labour in the market.”
BUILDING SKILLS FOR THE FUTURE
“Saba joined the dress-making session in June 2013 along with 24 other girls,” says, Mussarat Hussain, the dress-making instructor at vocational training centre. “Saba’s grasp of new concepts and practicing them at home always impressed me. Although, initially she used traditional methods for taking measurements and drafting, but later learned to do it all professionally. I am very proud of her performance on her job and am sure she will continue to grow.”
UNICEF through its implementing partner Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) and the Department of Youth Affairs, Sports, Archaeology and Tourism (YASAT) is implementing the project ‘Building Young Futures’ in selected most disadvantaged districts of the Punjab province. The project is being funded by the Barclays Bank.
The goal of the project is to improve income generation opportunities for the socially excluded and vulnerable adolescents, from age group 15-25, by enabling them to have access to demand-driven life, financial literacy and enterprise skills, through participation in recognized and certified training courses.
Adolescents from selected districts of Punjab Province participate in 8 and 14 months vocational training in selected areas including computer hard and software, electronics, agriculture, animal husbandry, fashion, hotel management, mechanics and the food industry.
ENVISIONING ECONOMIC ADVANCEMENT
“Due to low stipend which is 500 Rupees (USD 5) per month and high transportation cost, we are faced with difficulties in retaining the students at times. We have now opened more training centres at various locations in order to accommodate students at centres close to their homes. This has resulted in minimizing the dropout rate to only 4 per cent.”
“Vocational training is often considered a second choice, but that does not make it second-rate,” says Shagufta Bhatti, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF. “Vocational training for unemployed rural poor, is the key to income generation and better employment opportunities. Girls, more than the women or boys, lack access to financial capital and have limited opportunities to gain education, knowledge, and skills that can lead to economic advancement. "Girls have the opportunity to learn, build on life skills and utilize their newly learned skills for economic advancement."Inadequate policy frameworks and inequitable gender norms also often create barriers to girls' economic advancement. The training being offered through partnership with Barclays bank and PVTC is proving instrumental in ensuring that excluded and marginalized adolescents, especially girls have the opportunity to learn, build on life skills and utilize their newly learned skills for economic advancement.”