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Improving lives: Empowering women, one stitch at a time

By Sarfaraz Memon

SUKKUR: Gul Pari, a girl from a poor family, is dreaming big as she plans to establish her own designer boutique, after securing first position in stitching and embroidery from the Vocational Dastkari School run by the Pakistan Baitul Maal in New Pind, Sukkur. Gul Pari is one of many women who received six months’ training in stitching, embroidery and designing at the school and now is set to earn on her own.

“Before joining the school, I knew little about stitching though my mother used to sew clothes at home,” she told The Express Tribune. Due to years of stitching, my mother’s eyesight has weakened but she still works, said Pari. “Now I am stitching clothes at home and earning to support my family of seven,” she said, adding that she does not want to sew simple clothes and would like to learn different designs. “One day I am going to establish my own boutique to prove that girls coming from the slums can also perform miracles,” she vowed.

Samina is another resident of the same locality and has three children. “I joined this school after receiving a pamphlet distributed in the locality by the school administration,” she explained. “Now, as I have completed my training, I have started stitching clothes at home and earning enough to feed my family,” she said. According to Samina, men cannot be the sole providers for their families due to rising inflation and stressed on the need for women to help out. Women also take pride in earning for the family, as they feel that they too share the household responsibilities, she explained.

Another student, Saima shared that her husband works as a labourer but does not earn enough to make ends meet. Now, with Saima’s help, their family’s needs are provided for. “Right now I charge Rs200 for a dress and, with the passage of time, I will increase my charges,” she said. Most of the people living in this locality belong to the lower-middle class and cannot afford costly tailoring, so Rs200 for a dress is very reasonable, said Saima. Besides stitching clothes, she is also training five girls at home because their families did not allow them to attend the school.

Nabeela Akbar, who has been the Vocational Dastkari School incharge since 2008, received training from the school in its very first batch. “We are running this school in morning and evening shifts,” she said, adding that so far 20 batches of 60 students each have passed out from the school. All the material including, sewing machines, cloth, spools of different coloured thread and other items are provided to the students free of cost, according to Akbar.

The students also receive a daily stipend of Rs30. “Besides this, one hour daily is fixed for religious education, during which the students are taught to recite the Holy Quran and other Islamic values,” she said. At the end of the six-month course the students are given certificates and a copy of the Holy Quran, while the position holders also get awards, she added.

The district officer of the Sukkur Baitul Maal, Shabbir Memon, said the school was established in 2008 with the aim of empowering women and so far around 1,200 women have been trained. “Soon we are going to establish a modern computer lab where girls will be trained,” he said. “Our motto is to train the women and direct them to the path of self sufficiency,” said Memon, adding that their goal is to bring an end to poverty by empowering women because women have proven better workers than men.

Express Tribune