The graduation ceremony of more than 300 female students was held at the Pasrur Vocational Center, which is a part of a Coca-Cola funded project ‘Women Economic Empowerment Program’ in partnership with Kashf Foundation. The community based vocational training schools at the Pasrur Center have delivered three months duration training sessions to the low-income women of the local area, focused on beautician work, domestic tailoring, financial education and personal grooming. The ceremony was attended by Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director of Kashf Foundation and Fahad Qadir, Director Public Affairs & Communications of Coca-Cola Pakistan.

At the ceremony Fahad Qadir highlighted, “Kashf Foundation partnered with Coca-Cola in 2011 to set the ground for a microfinance project that serves the needs of low-income females all across Pakistan. Since then, the project has developed a multi-faceted approach by providing qualitative benefits like gender training to support women empowerment and financial management courses for female entrepreneurs. It is a great step forward for bringing the women of Pakistan into the mainstream, as empowered women contribute significantly both to the economy and the healthy development of families and of society.”

Altogether the project has empowered more than 5,000 female entrepreneurs so far, and in its sixth year, the project has been able to facilitate the enrollment of low-income females in the corporate sector by providing skill-based trainings at Pasrur Vocational Center, to bridge the gap between trainings and employment. Coca-Cola’s global program ‘5by20’ aims to empower more than 5 million females by the year 2020 and Kashf Foundation supports this mandate.

Speaking about the partnership with Coca-Cola Pakistan, Roshaneh Zafar emphasized “Vocational schools provide an opportunity to the low-income females across Pakistan a chance to improve their lives by gaining essential skills. These initiatives and trainings help women enhance their leadership skills and self-confidence, boosting the economy by becoming micro-entrepreneurs and potentially, changing their future.”

Kashf’s internal research has shown that vocational education trainings have a positive impact on wages, employment, mobility and employment opportunity. Complementing vocational trainings with trainings on financial management, self-actualization and self-confidence can help expand the economic benefits of the trainings to the trainees. Around 67% of the graduates of Kashf’s previous vocational trainings are now running their own businesses.

Kashf Foundation’s relationship with The Coca-Cola Foundation over the past seven years has generated many monumental investments into the economic enablement of impoverished female entrepreneurs in Pakistan. These meaningful impact investments provide Kashf access to thousands of female entrepreneurs who are interested in setting up new businesses or find employability. One of these investments last year in December 2016 included setting up of 3 vocational training centers in remote areas of Pasrur, Mundi ki Bariyian and Nokriyian Mughal. Through the funding of USD 120,000 by The Coca-Cola Foundation, the joint project successfully enabled over 300 entrepreneurs to acquire vocational skills training. The vocational training institutions carried out three month long training sessions for the low-income women of the surrounding Sialkot areas, focused mainly on beautician skills and domestic tailoring. With 6 teacher trainers and 1 supervisor, 317 women became graduates of tailoring and beautician courses over a course of 8-10 months (3 month sessions in two batches.)

Before the project started, Kashf Foundation researched these remote areas and the report showed that most girls in these regions hardly had any education with majority not going to school or only received schooling till primary/middle grade and opportunity was extremely curtailed because of mobility. The need and implementation of vocational training was highly essential in order for these women to play a role in the local economy, gain entrepreneurial skills and train themselves to run small-scale business ventures. These women were deprived of access to resources.

“This vocational training gave me confidence to start my own business. It helped me learn a great deal about tailoring, types of materials, stitching suits and groomed my business skills immensely. I am thankful to Kashf Foundation for helping me stand on my own feet,” states Fouzia Bibi who now provides for her family of 5, including two toddlers. After the vocational program she set up a tailoring business from her home and soon, her community members gave her orders to stitch their clothes.