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Report, The Other View

Women Empowerment in Pakistani administered Kashmir

We have just finished a report on the impact of our Vocational Training Centre in Dhulli on Women Empowerment in Kashmir – whether that works on the societal and enterpreneureal level and how. It can be downloaded from our website here.

By passing on skills through some women trained, it was possible to reach 17% of all women between 15 and 25 years in the area within 7 courses over 6 months each, directly affecting 7% of the total population. The average income of trained women after only some months to a year after the training already reached half the average wage of skilled women in Pakistan. 10% were offered a job after the training. Coupled with their increased confidence, about 70% felt that their family and community now respected them more. Nevertheless there were cases were communities or family members would initially support the training, but then hinder the woman from offering her skills on a commercial basis. Some women assured that just offering their skills to family already meant a great economic relief, but many attempted to establish a commercial venture and of these most successfully did so.

Most women openly complained how they were marginalized by society, even though the earthquake has brought some positive change in the mindset of many people. The success of such a training centre will always be dependent on community acceptance, and assistance to women and communities should always be provided along.

An unexpected positive side effect was, that many women were motivated to rejoin school after the training. Initially abandoning education because of a lack of perspectives with increased education, they were encouraged by their abilities in the handicrafts sector and with their own income were also able to afford higher education themselves. Keeping this in mind, highly effective vocational training is possible in such remote areas, granting positive economical as well as societal trade offs. Observing the success of women in village based training centers over future years, especially the acceptance among the local community, will prove whether this option could be a role model for the area.

I came up with two basic assumptions, loosely taken from a speech by Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah as a basis for the paper:

The defensive viewpoint states, that economic perspectives for women are only possible within the societal framework.
The offensive viewpoint acknowledges, that economic success will result in a loosening of the societal restrictions for women.

While the societal restrictions were obvious and need to be taken into account at all times, the loosening of societal restrictions was twofold. On the one hand, many women claimed, that already after the earthquake a liberal jolt also hit the area, concerning women’s rights. Many women were allowed to travel in local buses alone and the opportunity to join higher education suddenly appeared. The economic success of some women managed to back this development somehow – communities could see a measurable impact of restrictions being loosened.

The two most important outcomes were the fact that women who joined the vocational training were motivated to rejoin higher education after having found perspectives for their future again and that illiterate women, once they started a commercial venture were just equally succesful as literate women.

The earlier adresses an important point in development activities at the moment – building schools (especially girls schools) without evaluating perspectives women gain with a school education is flawed. A number of women in the project area did not join school, because they had to work at home or their fathers and brothers would not allow them. Most however had left school because they saw no point in getting an education. And statistics for Pakistan prove them right. The average salary of skilled women increases only marginally over the average wage of unskilled women and labour participation rates for unskilled women are higher than those for skilled. Vocational Training targetting school drop outs may be an ideal measure to reinvoke perspectives by giving them a way of earning their own money with their own skills.

The latter proves, that illiterate women should equally be considered for government training centres but should be especially encouraged to start a commercial venture. Often they are shying away from following up on such an activity, having a very low self esteem owing to their inability to read. Additionally they are often from extremely poor families who welcome an additional income and encourage their daughter to contribute finances.

Interesting background literature can be found in the Literature List, although most of the studies are purely statistical (even and especially those written by Pakistanis) which I find to be not very helpful in getting a dynamic and realistic picture.

About Jakob Steiner

... lived, worked and studied in Australia, Europe and Asia.


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October 2010
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