For women in remote rural areas, life is mainly confined to household activities. Traditionally, they have little if any role to play in direct income generation for the family. However, GRACE has always felt that if women could also make their own contribution to support the family income, it could provide a great financial relief to the entire household. To this end, Grace Association Pakistan, in collaboration with the Himalayan Green Club of Japan, established a vocational centre for women in April 2009 at the Grace Public School in Skardu. Two instructors, Zakia Nisar Khan and Zeban Muhammad, had been recruited by Grace as teachers to train women in Astana and neighbouring villages the skills needed to cut and sew dresses for women and children. The target intake is mainly made up of women who are generally poor and illiterate, and it is clear just from watching them that they deeply enjoy learning new skills. Moreover, it is plain to see just how much they are uplifted by having the opportunity to take a few hours from housework, children and family, and come into a supportive and friendly environment. On completion of the 6-month training course, the Grace Program Office organized a certificate presentation ceremony at the school on November 17, 2009. Not surprisingly, all 25 women enrolled were delighted at having successfully completed the course.
One instructor, Ms Zakia Nisar Khan said at the event that her graduates would now be able to use their skills for the good of themselves and their families and also boost the household economy. Moreover, their qualifications now give them more empowerment in society. She thanked Grace Association Pakistan for providing this opportunity to enhance income generating skills for women of their remote villages.
One trainee, speaking also on behalf of her fellow students, said that they had been highly interested in learning more knitting and embroidery skills, and that many more women in surrounding villages are also looking for admission in this vocational centre. She concluded by recommending that GRACE should continue the work of the Centre in the winter season as well. Evelin Nommiste, a GRACE volunteer from Estonia, said, "I am very happy to be here working for women and I also want to share my skills with you all."
Mr. Khadim Hussain, Founder and Chief Executive of the GRACE Association Pakistan, stated that, "this program was started in collaboration with HGC Japan, and that this course is just a pilot towards establishing a formal Technical Training Institute (TTI) for women of the area." He further stated that GRACE is taking many other initiatives to raise awareness in society about the work of women and their important role in helping to develop society. He added that unemployment is a global challenge, but that the door is open to women to achieve independence and employment outside their own homes through skills enhancement.
GRACE endeavours to empower and improve the quality of life of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the least developed parts of Pakistan through welfare, participatory research and development, capacity building, promotion of best practices and partnership building, advocacy, and by launching sustainable and replicable innovative projects.