In a world that constantly strives for progress and equality, it is disheartening to witness the persistence of gender disparities in various spheres of life. Despite significant advancements, women face obstacles and limitations, particularly in accessing education and employment opportunities.
In Pakistan, where culture and religion play a pivotal role in dictating women’s lives, only limited opportunities are available to women. One of the key reasons for the gender gap in employment opportunities is the lack of access to quality education and skill-building programs for women. Sadly, around half of the female population has never been to school.
However, a few NGOs have stepped up and taken up the role of empowering women.
In Orangi Town, Karachi, a new initiative is taking shape to empower women and narrow the gender gap through industrial skills training.
Orangi Town, a densely populated area in Karachi, is home to a vibrant community brimming with untapped potential. Historically, this region has faced numerous socio-economic challenges, aggravating gender disparities in wider society.
Local organizations and authorities have recognized the need to address this issue and implement a groundbreaking program that equips women with industrial skills.
What Are Skill Development Programs?
Many women in Orangi Town have limited exposure to formal education due to various societal and cultural factors. As a result, they often find themselves confined to traditional roles and responsibilities, unable to explore their true potential.
However, the industrial skills training program seeks to break these barriers by providing women with the necessary tools and knowledge to enter the workforce.
The program, tailored specifically for women in Orangi Town, encompasses a wide range of industrial skills training, including but not limited to sewing, textile designing, handicrafts, and computer literacy. By offering diverse skills, the initiative ensures that women can explore different avenues and find a field that aligns with their interests and strengths. That empowers them economically and enhances their self-confidence and overall well-being.
Gender Disparity And Economic Development
To truly understand the significance of such an initiative, it is essential to examine the broader context of gender disparities in Pakistan.
According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey, women’s labor force participation rate in Pakistan stood at a mere 23% in 2023, significantly lower than the global average of 47%. That indicates vast untapped potential and a pressing need to create opportunities for women to contribute to the workforce.
Hence, not only do the training programs help empower women, but they also create a more gender-inclusive workforce.
Additionally, the benefits of empowering women extend far beyond individual success stories. It has been widely acknowledged that gender equality and women’s empowerment contribute to overall economic growth and development.
By bridging the gender gap through industrial skills training, Orangi Town has the potential to not only uplift individual women but also stimulate economic growth in the region and beyond.
The World Bank estimates that increasing women’s labor force participation rates can substantially increase per capita income and reduce poverty levels. Living standards are lower when there are more mouths to feed and just one man earning.
Orangi Town, considered the largest slum in Karachi, faces water scarcity and overcrowding. The town’s hosting more people than it can accommodate has created a housing crisis. Hence, empowering women has become necessary for more families to escape the community.
Also, by empowering women and making them financially independent, the children can have a better life. That means better schools, better access to healthcare facilities, and a bright future!
Gender Equality And Wage Gaps
Moreover, the initiative aligns with the global agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 5: Gender Equality. The United Nations has emphasized the importance of empowering women and ensuring their full and equal participation in all spheres of life. By equipping women in Orangi Town with industrial skills, this initiative is directly contributing to SDG 5 and promoting a more inclusive and equitable society.
Acknowledging the success stories that have emerged from similar initiatives worldwide is crucial. For instance, in Bangladesh, the Garment and Textile industries have witnessed a significant transformation due to the active participation of women.
Women account for approximately 80% of the industry’s workforce, making it a major driver of economic growth and women’s empowerment in the country. That demonstrates the immense potential for similar outcomes in Orangi Town, Karachi, once women receive the necessary skills and opportunities.
Cultural Norms And How They Create Obstacles
The industrial skills training program in Orangi Town faces its fair share of challenges. Addressing deeply ingrained societal norms and cultural biases requires a comprehensive approach that involves skill-building, raising awareness, challenging stereotypes, and creating an enabling environment.
Collaborative efforts from local organizations, government authorities, and community leaders are vital to ensuring the program’s success and sustainability.
Awareness Campaigns—Are They Any Good?
Several strategies can be implemented to ensure the long-term success of the industrial skills training program in Orangi Town. First and foremost, promoting the program extensively within the community is essential.
Awareness campaigns can be organized to reach out to women and their families, highlighting skill-building benefits and debunking common myths and misconceptions surrounding women’s participation in the workforce.
Joining Hands With Other Local Businesses
Partnerships with local businesses and industries can be established to create avenues for employment and entrepreneurship for trained women.
Engaging employers and showcasing the skills and talents of the program participants can help break down biases and create opportunities for women to enter the workforce. That can be supplemented by mentorship and guidance for women who wish to start their own businesses, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit within the community.
In addition to immediate economic benefits, the program can also focus on providing ongoing support and mentorship to the women even after they complete their training. That includes networking opportunities, access to resources and information, and continuous skill enhancement workshops.
By nurturing a supportive ecosystem, women can feel more confident in their abilities and have the necessary tools to navigate and thrive professionally.
Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms should be implemented to assess the program’s impact and make necessary improvements. Regular feedback from the women participants, employers, and community members can provide valuable insights into the program’s effectiveness and identify areas for refinement.
This iterative improvement process ensures that the program remains responsive to the evolving needs of the women and the community.
Inclusive And Sustainable Growth
It is crucial to address the intersectional aspects of gender inequality as well. Efforts should be made to ensure that women from marginalized groups, such as low-income backgrounds, ethnic minorities, or differently abled women, are not left behind. Targeted interventions and additional support may be necessary to address their needs and challenges, ensuring inclusivity and equal opportunities for all.
Importantly, sustainability should be a key consideration. The program should be designed with long-term viability in mind, incorporating elements that empower the community to take ownership and continue the work beyond the initial implementation phase.
That can involve training local trainers and facilitators who can carry forward the program, establishing partnerships with educational institutions, and integrating industrial skills training into the broader educational curriculum.
The industrial skills training program in Orangi Town, Karachi, has the potential to bridge the gender gap and empower women by providing them with the necessary skills and opportunities to thrive in the workforce. This initiative transforms individual lives by addressing the barriers that limit women’s access to education and employment. It contributes to economic growth and social development.
With collaborative efforts, community engagement, and sustained support, we can create a more equitable and inclusive society where women are recognized as equal participants and contributors. We move closer to realizing the vision of a gender-equal world through initiatives like this.