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'Handy Skills' training sparks a business idea

Something very interesting is happening in south Punjab - young women are training to work as electricians. In a region that is host to patriarchal societies that cling to traditions, these young women challenge gender stereotypes every day.

Nageena lives in a village of Layyah District. In May 2013 Plan International offered a series of two days “handy skills” workshops in which she chose to learn how to assemble rechargeable lights.

The trainees received step by step instructions on how to assemble the rechargeable lights and were equipped with all the necessary materials, including a solder gun and wires, dry batteries, LED lights, diodes, circuits, on/off buttons and pliers. The training was intentionally designed to expose young girls to non-traditional trades and skills with the aim to challenge gender stereotypes in trades.

Nageena, left, poses with her group

Nageena was so impressed with the usefulness of the training that she decided to start a business making these lights for others. Says Nageena: “There is a huge demand for these devices in the area due to the un-availability of electricity.”

The total cost to manufacture a single rechargeable light is about Rs.100, and they can easily fetch Rs.150 to Rs.180. According to Nageena, having delivered the first few orders she will explore the demand in adjacent villages of the union council.

She is very happy at the prospect of being able to earn an income in this way and is also interested to get further training to increase her skills.

Along with being self-reliant, Nageena also wants to lead the way to change perceptions in her community. She wants to become a role model for the rural girls by showing them that they can learn skills and then apply them to earn a living.

Says Nageena: “I have noticed that the parents of some girls have been watching my progress and are now more willing to let their daughters participate in similar trainings.”