Six years ago, Naila, who is now 24, decided to do her bachelors in Zoology.
This decision was not driven by passion, but rather it was the only path she knew to follow when she was unable to get admission into the medical college of her choice.
“My parents wanted me to get married, just like my sister and all the other girls in my area. But I convinced them to let me graduate first”, Naila shares.
“My cousin told me that if I did not get into med school, maybe I can choose the next best option.” Naila, then graduated in Zoology in 2020 from the University of Peshawar.
Naila lives in Bannu, a city in the south of the KPK.
She went to a public school and then a private school for her secondary education. Most women in her area are not allowed to work or study, and even if by some stroke of luck, they manage to study, there are no future prospects or job opportunities in the city.
Naila went through a great ordeal to convince her parents to let her stay in a hostel and finish her undergrad program in Peshawar, which is approximately four hours away from her hometown. She wants to beat all odds as she continues to work towards bringing change.
Knowing she has no career prospects locally in Zoology, Naila is still striving to see change not only to achieve something in her life, but rather to lead by example and uplift the women in her neighbourhood.
Right now, she is teaching at a local school, something that according to her, is the most common field of work women in her area settle for.
“When I graduated and came back to my hometown, I did not have many opportunities but the schools here were in dire need of teachers so I joined a school here in Bannu as a teacher,” she explains.
One day when she was scrolling through Facebook, she came across CaterpillHERs, an initiative spearheaded by two women who offer remote-based programs to women in entrepreneurship or those women who are looking to accelerate their careers.
This program turned out to be a major turning point in Naila’s life.
She carried a rigorous spirit to grow, and despite all the perplexing thoughts about her career she still challenges to break barriers that keep her from achieving her dreams. And during this effort, she grasps whichever opportunity that comes her way. And so the online program was that new ray of hope.
Technology isn’t just giving people the tools to bring advancements in how they function on a daily basis but it also paves the way for young people to learn new skills through such remote-based programs from the comfort of their homes.
Moreover, a lot of credit for the success of these programs goes to renowned professionals in the IT sector who support such causes, such as sponsor of the CaterpillHERs program, Ammara Masood, the CEO and President of NdcTech.
Tanveel Khan, a 27-year-old girl from Karachi who is now an entrepreneur also owes her success and newly acquired talent to CaterpillHERs and their founder, Hira Saeed.
The program came into her life when she needed something to count on, as she at the time was unable to determine if she wanted to pursue a career in chemical engineering. Something was amiss in her mind.
She was the first to join the course when the program was first announced. Through it, she not only received new skills but embarked on a very different and brave journey that in time has proven to be successful for her personal and career growth; her own tie and dye business of bedsheets and cushions amongst other clothing items.
“I did not receive advice but instead I received a roadmap that even after the course ended, it is still something I rely upon along with the strong alumni community that always remains in touch,” Tanveel says, adding, “When your mind is caught up and intimidated by what lays ahead in future, at this moment if you find a mentor to guide you, you should consider yourself very lucky.”
Through the program, Tanveel kickstarted two career paths simultaneously. One as a freelancer and the other with her tie and dye business.
A report by The Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) reviewing the IT Industry revealed that the exponential growth in the number of freelancers in Pakistan has resulted in a revenue of $150 million earned by freelancers in the financial year 2019-20, with exports to 120+ countries.
But even with the growing numbers and opportunities, some women are left battling impositions that society puts on them.
“I want to reach a place where I can help women in my area feel empowered and dream of becoming financially independent,” Naila says with great determination.
It is evident that many women in her area have struggled to get equal opportunities in receiving education, then higher education, and, then, moving to find a job, is a whole different ball game.
As important as it is for women to be financially independent, they are the prime caretakers of the family, hence it becomes a challenge to sometimes communicate this.
“My parents usually snub my request for letting me work with the idea that since they are providing for me I do not need to work,” Naila claims.
This false notion attached to women is a factor that deters their growth and impacts their mental health.
“I feel like I am constantly fighting to reach the next step, but I am not going to give up,” Naila asserts, “I have come a long way and I do not plan to give up.”
Naila just finished her skill development course with CaterpillHERs to accelerate her freelancing career. She is now on a path to kickstart her career so she can convince her parents of her abilities. As days pass by, she makes use of each day, hoping to get close to achieving her dreams, and maybe one day very soon, she will go against those odds and land the job of her dreams, in a bigger more established city. Perhaps, that too could be something based on a remote program.