1. From Veil to Workshop
Gull Bibi is 12 years old. She is from a traditional Muslim Pashtun family from Duki in Baluchistan. Gull Bibi was allowed to attend school until she was ?? years old (grade 5). Sadly, in accordance with local tradition, her education was discontinued and she was required to stay at home and submit to the strict veil system. She was forbidden to socialise with, or even meet, any men, even her male cousins. As she grew up she became inquisitive, realising that her freedom to move around was severely compromised by traditional customs; she became curious about her lifestyle. Gull Bibi had female cousins in the city who visited her occasionally and she realised that they had relatively more freedom; she learned of the freedom enjoyed by girls and women across the world She became resolved to better herself; to react against the traditional society into which she had been brought up.
One day Gull Bibi came to hear of the Umeed Partnership vocational training programme and she learned that an embroidery training centre was being run in local homesteads in nearby villages. However, despite her pleading, her parents refused to allow her to join the centre for fear of the shame of public exposure. The Trainer learned of Gull Bibi’s interest and convinced her parents of the value of embroidery and training. They relented on receiving assurance that Gull Bibi would not be exposed to men.
Gull Bibi applied herself diligently and became the best student in her year group. After a full year of training, Gull Bibi started producing quality dresses for sale, demonstrating her considerable competence as a master of her trade. To her parents’ delight, she began earning significant money. Thankfully her father had confidence in her and saw her potential and so he helped her to establish an embroidery workshop in their house, providing training for many other girls. Now she has the full permission of her family to attend the local market to sell her products and to purchase local materials for her workshop. With time Gull Bibi grows in confidence and now feels that she is contributing in a meaningful way to the quality of life of herself, her family and her community. She has progressed from Veil to Workshop in just a few years.
Mrs. Zenab is the mother of five children living in Lahore city slums. Life was just about bearable until her husband, the sole breadwinner, became addicted to drugs and gambling. He sold household items to fund his addiction and he became unable to work. His income dried up and the children suffered badly. “My children are very young and I am just a housewife” she said. “I had nowhere to go until Umeed opened an embroidery centre in our community. I joined as soon as I could in desperation and since I knew something about embroidery already I became proficient quite quickly. Within three months I began securing embroidery work at home on a commission basis from my neighbours and my community. At last I had money to buy food for my children…”
After completing her training, Mrs Zenab is delighted to say that she is now in a position to earn Rs.8,000 to Rs.10,000 monthly - enough to feed and care for her family. The husband has still not mended his ways but at least her main worries are behind her. She thanks God for directing the Umeed Partnership to her community. Some of her friends and neighbours who were living in poverty and who had reached the end of the road have similarly been trained by Umeed and are now making a decent life for their families. She says “Umeed is promoting economic justice and gender equality among women of the slum and rural areas. It has freed them from the bondage of slavery and male domination”. Using a biblical term, it has been seen as a great Exodus for these women, formerly living in virtual slavery but who are now enjoying the fruits of emancipation.
3. Proud of her achievement
MRS Musarat is a UPP instructor at an embroidery training Centre in Loralai with 20 trainees – all girls & women. She is originally from Punjab Province but she moved to Loralai in the tribal area of Baluchistan after marrying a man from that town. After some time she realised that, being from a tribal community, her husband expected her to abide strictly to tribal traditions. So she was forbidden to step outside her home. Mrs Musarat said her life was totally unfulfilled since she was unable to enjoy even the smallest form of recreation or social interaction. She was confined to the four walls of a very small house.
After four years her husband divorced her and she had no option but to move in with her parents who had also migrated to Loralai from the Punjab some years earlier. Even while living with her parents her movements continued to be restricted by the tribal customs in the very conservative community of Loralai. However, through her brother she learned of the UPP programme of embroidery training for illiterate women and she joined as a student trainee. After one year of training she offered to establish an embroidery training Centre in her own home and volunteered to act as an instructor. The Umeed Project Co-ordinator facilitated this and now she earns in excess of Rs 7000 every month having secured contracts from outside her community.
Mrs Musarat has proved competent in running the embroidery Centre and she is totally committed to the aims of UPP – that is, the empowerment of women. A few months ago she re-married. It was expected that her husband might not allow her to continue her involvement with UPP but, surprisingly, he allowed her to continue to run the Centre. However, this support was conditional upon her not taking any other form of employment. Mrs Musarat is very proud of her achievement. She says that her work has given her respect, opportunities for earning and learning and acquiring
inter-cultural and inter-faith experiences. She says that she is now in a position to pass on her skills and experiences to the illiterate and unskilled women of Baluchistan where the education and skills rate among women is the lowest in the world.
Note: These and many other success stories will be published soon in a booklet form..........