BLISS Article: Newsletter 16

BLISS:  Business and Life Skills School

In Attock, Pakistan, Barakat has been working with the Turkmen community for the last 15 years with its educational programs.  One of the essential features of Barakat’s programs in the host community is to create opportunities for girls education by addressing the community bias against female education. 

When looking at female enrollment in schools in Turkmen communities in Pakistan, it is evident that most parents do not want to send girls to schools as they do not think it is necessary in light of their established perceptions that:

The financial opportunity cost of sending the girls to schools is high. The parents want their girls to learn and work in carpet weaving which has been their profession and source of living for a very long time. 
The parents fail to see why a girl should get even primary education when her role later in life will only be that of a wife and mother. 

To address this issue Barakat has initiated its Business and Life Skill School (BLISS) program.

 BLISS is a model that simultaneously deals with the Turkmen community’s bias against education, and its financial bondage to carpet weaving.  

“Hands on Training: MAKE A PRODUCT”  is one of the components of BLISS program, which has been started recently. Though this program, evening classes are conducted for those female students who have no opportunity to attend schools due to the above mentioned perceptions. The participants of these classes receive formal education together with vocational skills. 

Ms. Saba Gul, an MIT graduate has designed this program after having detailed meetings with community members, Barakat staff, students and teachers and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is supporting it.  The program has started functioning from October 1, 2009. Currently there are 40 students in two classes. Although the intending participants were large in number but it was not possible to accommodate  all, so the pilot program has started with 40 students between the ages of 13 to 25.

Mr. Abdul Rehman, a Barakat staff member and a Turkmen himself, is supervising the program.  

The Hands on Training consists of a product creation session called "Make a Product" and serves 2 purposes: 

(1) It is the financial backbone of BLISS, and makes it self sustainable over time.

 

(2) It battles the financial opportunity cost that prevents children from attending school. 

Make a Product engages the older girls in the community. The program chose older girls because they have the lowest attendance in schools, highest dropout rate, and already have the skills for making product hand embroidered bags.  

Make a Product constitutes a 1 hour after school session that serves as an income generation tool. The fabric, thread and design motifs are provided by the local personnel, and embroidered fabric is stitched into bags by a local tailor. These bags will be sold online as well as in markets in US and locally in big cities of Pakistan. It is estimated that the girls will be able to earn USD $7  per month. The sustainability of the program has been emphasized in its planning.