Dec 14, 2009

Timely training

Vocational skills give the local women means to earn a livelihood

By Syed Kosar Naqvi

More than 700 women in the nine union councils of Abbottabad district have received vocational training to earn their livelihood during the last two years under Community Livelihood Rehabilitation Plan (CLRP). The training was funded by Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA). The project taught women innovative skills like shawls weaving, making of linen, quilts, embroidery, jewelry, zari work, and jute work, etc. The project is going to be completed in Abbottabad in a few weeks time.

So far, it has spent Rs 66 million through the local community in the field of agriculture, livestock, infrastructure, and enterprise development. 7.5 million rupees were allocated for each union council. The project was technically supported by the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) while different NGOs were selected for the implementation of these projects. Integrated Development, Empowerment and Advocacy for Livelihood Support (IDEALS) is one of the major implementing partners of ERRA in five out of nine union councils of District Abbottabad.

Abbottabad, where rehabilitation process was started in January 2008, is the only district in all nine affected districts where the pace of work is quite fast -- 70 out of total 90 projects have been completed. Nagina, a young girl, who comes from Nakheter, a remote village, terms it a blessing. She was given a three-months training in bed quilting in 2008. She is now working with an international NGO as master trainer, "I am now capable of not only making bed quilts on my own but can impart training. I have developed confidence and have worked with different national as well as international NGOs as master trainer," she tells The News on Sunday (TNS).

Salma and Rashida were given training in cutting, stitching, and machine embroidery in village Malkote and then got a job in the same training centre. Kaleema, a poor girl residing in village Nummal, is one of the trainees who graduated in different skills. She says she has benefited from training and now has a source of income. She is working as a master trainer in Skill Training Centre Nummal, earning bread and butter for her family.

Fozia Ihsan, a Master Trainer, says as many as 35 Master Trainers, mostly females, have benefited from this project. She says they have gained good experience by working in remote areas. Gulnaz Bibi, another Master Trainer also has similar feelings to share. She has been working with different organisations as Master Trainer. "I was with left no option but to go to work after the death of my husband and managed to provide education to my children," she tells TNS.

IDEALS, an NGO consortium of Hazara and Malakand regions, is the only organisation which has completed 48 CLRP projects in Abbottabad. No other organisation in the earthquake affected districts has been able to meet the targets. The projects introduced and designed by this organisation, like shawls weaving and quilting, are worth-seeing and have a good market value. The shawl-weaving activity in village Majuhan has evoked interest as the objective of this enterprise development project is to empower the community and making them competent enough to become successful entrepreneurs, leading the industry in future. This will bring them economic freedom and end their dependency and enable the community, especially women, to strive for self-sufficiency to improving their standard of living.

Efforts were made to implement the project in its true spirit by ensuring complete transfer of technology from Swat to Mujhan. The Master Trainers did their job well and were quite convinced with learning abilities of the participants. A linkage has been developed with manufacturers for the purchase of raw material and any kind of technical assistance/support in future. The community members appreciate the valuable income generation project.

The trainees were provided marketing linkages, with display centres and art galleries at a central business location for marketing of these high quality hand-made products to enable the concerned community members to continue their production activities on sustainable basis. The products that trainees produced during the three months training are in high demand in the local market. The community was provided the required machinery and equipment. The availability of equipment and professional trainers enabled the community to earn a livelihood.

The project offers income generation opportunity for ordinary family of five to seven individuals and there is a greater potential of project expansion in terms of registration of more trainees and manufacturing of more refined and high quality marketable products. Banaras Khan, livelihood Coordinator Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) tells TNS that it is a unique project as local communities were involved.

It was a platform where local communities could plan, implement, and monitor projects according to their own needs and priorities. "This has given the opportunity to the local people to organise themselves for a collective cause and work in a more transparent way. The negative aspect of the project was its slow pace at some levels," he says. Khan further says there are other factors which should also be given preference in future planning of such projects. "They must be demand-driven, the time period must be at least five years with emphasis on marketing and value chain development. This will compliment efforts being taken in planning and implementation phase and will further enhance the capacity of local communities at grass root level."

Maria Daud, Livelihood Officer FAO, was of the view that a platform of 700 trained workers has been provided which can be converted into a big cottage industry. She invites the industrial department to come forward to exploit the situation.

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