PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to close 21 ready-made garment training and three business development centres in the province leading to the layoff of over 100 employees, mostly women, and denial of training opportunities to hundreds of unskilled and uneducated women.

Tho centres were set up under the KP Women Skill and Entrepreneurship Development Programme (WSEDP) and have been managed by the Small Industries Development Board under an ADP (annual development programme) project since 2015.

Sources told Dawn that the SIDB had issued one-month prior notices to the employees of those centres informing them that the project was coming to an end on July 1, 2021, so their services were no longer required.

The notice issued to five staff members of a RGC in Peshawar read, ‘consequent upon completion of PC-1 period of the ADP project WSEDP on June 30, 2021, therefore, yours services were no more required with effect from July 1, 2021. This [letter] be treated as one month prior notice.”

Move to lay off over 100 employees mostly women

SIDB Employees Association president Nasim Khan told Dawn that 109 people were employed for those centres and 80 per cent of them were women.

He said the centres were not only a source of income for those women employees but hundreds of women in remote areas of the province were also getting dressmaking training there.

Mr Nasim said majority of the girls trained in the making of ready-made garments at those centres were uneducated and poor, so the training helped them and others earn honourably instead of doing dishes in their neighbourhoods.

He said the planning and development department and SIDB blamed each other for the closure of centres.

The association president said the SIDB management was of the view that the P&D department wanted the project to close but the P&D officials they spoke to accused the SIDB of not providing necessary documentation in time to keep the project running.

Mr Nasim said it was unjust to deprive poor women of their livelihood amid the pandemic-induced economic crisis and the government could save their jobs at a pittance.

“We took up this issue with the industries department, chief secretary’s office and other relevant officials but got no response,” he said.

SIDB managing director Ghazanfar Ali told Dawn that 21 RGCs and three business development centres in Swat, Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar were being closed due to the conclusion of the project.

He said the project was initially planned for a period of three years but it continued for around five years before it was being shelved.

Mr Ali said usually, such projects were time-bound and appointment of staff to them was made on contractual basis until the completion of the ‘project cycle’.

He, however, said whenever a project was transferred to the ‘regular side’, its employees got regularised but as the project in question was not regularised, those recruited for them were being laid off.

Interestingly, these 21 centres have appeared in the KP Industrial Policy, 2020, under the ‘support to small and medium enterprise’.

Outlining its objectives, the policy also called for the breaking of stereotypes about labour as a male activity and encouraged women to participate in industrial activities, become part of workforce, and benefit from the rewards and output of industrial activity.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2021

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