A training programme in the stitching industry is creating opportunities for women
By Saadia Salahuddin
For ages, learning to stitch clothes and preparing dresses has remained part of a young woman’s training. Stitching, embroidery and knitting have remained an integral part of a girl’s skills. There are schools that still have a weekly class of needlework for them. While they have been sewing clothes for the entire family, but when it comes to benefiting in monetary terms, men take the lead in the stitching industry in Pakistan. Till 2006, this industry had 100 percent men working in this sector, with women assigned thread-cutting job only — a low-end job that pays little. With the effort of Gen-Prom, a programme that gives 10-12 weeks training to women and men in this field, 20 percent of the workers in the stitching industry are now women.
An initiative of UNDP, gender promotion through skills development in the clothing/garment sector, Gen-Prom aims at enhancing the skill level of garment and sewing industry workers so that this important backbone industry of Pakistan can survive the tough challenges of global competition.
"Gen-Prom has trained 6,000 workers out of which 4,500 are women, in just two years time," says Sajeel Butt, National Project Manager, Gen-Prom Project Punjab. More and more women are coming to the fore to learn the skill and be a helping hand in the family. The age-group that gets training is 18-30 years old. Why not women older than these? "This age-group delivers efficiency," says Mian Mehmood Anwar, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Gen-Prom Punjab.
Every person eager to learn has to qualify a test to get this training. It’s a test where you have to put thread in needles of different sizes and arrange blocks within a box in the given time. In short, it is a test of eyesight and reflexes. Certainly, young people are likely to have quick reflexes, so the choice is simple.
The good part is that once selected for training, workers are paid from day one — Rs6,000 a month. Ninety percent of the women Gen-Prom has trained were doing no work before. The world over, women dominate in the textile industry. It is the other way round in Pakistan. Gen-Prom has established 37 training units in various factories. Here are brief interviews of some of the workers who have benefited from this training.
Shabana Mushtaq has come from Okara to learn the skill. The 22-year-old came to know about the opportunity from newspaper and is staying with her sister in Lahore. After three months training, she is working in the production unit.
Safia Tariq is the best operator according to the master trainer. Like all other girls working in the stitching factories, this girl also commutes in the factory bus. "Whatever the worker takes interest in, the supervisor pays attention to which makes learning and working easier."
Rabia Iftikhar comes from a big family. She is studying and learning stitching at the same time. She is doing B.Com and goes to academy for two hours after the factory. Her enthusiasm to move ahead in life and contribution to the family income is remarkable.
Tahira Omar is a mother of two. She has three and five years old children. The skill has enabled her to earn the much-needed money. Salima has one child and her husband is out of work for the last six months. "He used to do embroidery on computer. He has been to everyone who could give him work. Such is the situation in the embroidery business. "In this scenario, the skill Gen-Prom has imparted to me is nothing less than a blessing." Salima was introduced to this opportunity by a niece who has already benefited from the training.
Irshad, a mother of three children, is the sole earning hand of the family after her husband fell ill. She says, "The environment is excellent here. They are giving very good training. We make trousers here." Sidra and her sister are in the stitching factory while their mother does clipping work there. "We have skill. We can work now and earn. The environment is very good here. This work has brought good times in my family. We have to wed off our eldest sister. A lot of change has come in our home with the money we bring in." She was in class IX when she quit school.
Sidra is engaged but her marriage has not been planned yet. "My father is a security guard and draws the same salary as I do. We are five sisters and one brother. One of my sisters works in a bread-making factory that pays her Rs4,000 only for 12 hours work. She is in bread-packaging. I have just completed training here."
All these girls are less than 30 years of age. They are enthusiastic about moving ahead in life. It is important that they learn more skills so that they continue working or they would leave the work after getting married. Still, there are so many young women who need work.
The trainers are from India. Gen-Prom took fresh engineers and attached them with consultants. These people impart 60 percent of the training. Gen-Prom has developed training curriculum for operators, master trainers and middle management. Gen-Prom offers its curriculum to Tevta for free, TNS learns this from Sajeel Butt. Tevta should immediately seize the opportunity so that more people benefit from a curriculum that has trained 6,000 hands in just two years.
A consultant, Prabhat, says, "It is easier to work with women because they are more committed." In India, Bangladesh, and China, 80 percent women are working in this area while in Pakistan it’s only 20 percent. The main idea is to improve family income by training women to work in garment industry. One can safely say that Gen-Prom has been successful in that and will help more women do better.
Women workers improve on their skills.