KARACHI: “My father passed away one year ago and being the eldest child in the family, the responsibility of taking care of my mother and educating my younger brothers fell on me,” said Sonia Khalid, a 20-year-old girl, who has benefited from the Youth Employment Project (YEP) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). She was speaking at the awards ceremony on Tuesday for some 200 young people like her trained under the same project.
The YEP, with support from USAID, looks to provide demand-driven training to youth from Karachi’s conflict-ridden areas so that they can gain employment in garments-related trades and improve their standard of living in the process. To date, the project has trained over 7,000 people in garment-manufacturing skills and provided jobs to more than 4,000 of them. The venue also had many stalls showcasing their creations.
“I got a schoolteacher’s job but it only paid me six or seven thousand rupees. Then I heard about YEP and got myself enrolled there for just a short month-long course. After receiving my training, I found suitable employment within the garments industry,” the girl stated.
Twenty-two-year-old Haris Soomro, who has also completed the training and managed to improve his circumstances, shared that he had a shop in Lyari, which he had to wind up because of the disturbances in the area. “For two years after that I struggled to make ends meet. Then after hearing about this training and getting myself enrolled for it, I have now got a job at a garments company. I am also continuing with my studies while I earn,” he said.
UNDP country director Ignacio Artaza said youth all over the world shaped the future of a country but a large portion of youth in Pakistan lacked education and skills making them stagnant. “We help them so that they can find employment and be agents of positive change. Today, we have trained around 7,000 such individuals but our aim is to train more than 13,000,” he said.
Explaining more about YEP, Syed Moin Haider Zaidi of UNDP said that there were some 19 conflict-ridden areas in Karachi such as Lyari, Orangi, Sultanabad, Shah Faisal Colony etc where unrest and disturbances have given rise to lack of education and employment for the youth of the area. “YEP provides them with learning skills that are more like life skills. There are programmes included in the training such as vocational training, community mobilisation, sensitising, internships, awareness programmes, entrepreneurship, etc. The idea is not just to provide training but creating training opportunities for the young, especially women,” he said.
USAID provincial director Denise Herbol said that she was very impressed by the lovely designs and creations of the youth in the stalls. “My daughter is a fashionista and had she accompanied me here today, she would have made me buy all the dresses,” she commented, hoping that the youth of Karachi could compete with the global labour force and be able to fill the gap between demand and supply, while helping the country earn more foreign exchange.
Rafiq Ahmed, managing director of the Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority, said that they also wanted the youth entrepreneurs to spread their wings and provide jobs to other youth. “They should use their training to set up their own businesses, too. And provide employment to other youth,” he said. “There are 20,000 students already enrolled in our vocational institutes and we will open more such training centres at the UC level also,” he added.
Rehana Ghulam Ali Memon, secretary, planning and development, said that if the youth in the troubled areas were not helped to help themselves, their lives would have been engulfed by violence.
Shahid Naeem, adviser to the chief minister of Sindh, the chief guest on the occasion, appreciated the project, wishing all the best.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2017