London: (By Hannah Chowdhry) hristian women from the Christian colony of Lakhoder which is situated near the biggest dumping site of Lahore are being put through vocational courses to upskill and gain financial strength.
Traditionally, men and women form the local area would survive by sorting rubbish on the dumping site or by working as domestic cleaners for wealthy Muslims. For extremely hard and long days of employment they would earn around 1500 rupees (£70) per month.
Women in such families are disenfranchised and their position exposes them to exploitation including sexual harassment, forceful conversion, violence and paying less than agreed or not at all.
However, BACA is now working in partnership with a local charity to uplift theses Christian women. Skills that provide more sustainable and strong financial reward is the key to their empowerment. The project that we are sponsoring is supported by local Pastors who are involved in the design, promotion and recruitment for this educational programme. In this particular project we have begun with a stitching centre.
Nadeem George, the Pastor responsible for Holy Cross Church, Lakhoder discussed the situation of working women in Lakhoder. He said:
“The majority of our church women belong to poor families and work as maids and janitors.
“We need a stitching centre to give these women the skill of sewing which increases their income by at least double.
“This safer more respectable employment will introduce financial stability to their families and lead to mothers training daughters and so on.”
Our partner charity began the stitching school project at Lakhoder, Lahore in August 2021 with the help of our grant. Before starting the project discussions were held within the Christian enclaves in the area and unanimously women sought a stitching school. The project has begun with 20 students including widows and young girls all of whom have enrolled at the school. The current list of students includes the following:
Sana Tanveer (19 yrs)
Ayesha Bhag (18 yrs)
Komal Nafees(18 yrs)
Soyam Shafeeq (19 yrs)
Nosheen Azam (30 yrs)
Komal George (25 yrs)
Joys Sadeeq (15 yrs)
Uzma Kousar (20 yrs)
Mehak Jameel (17 yrs)
Nadia George (35 yrs)
Rubina Asif (25 yrs)
Sobia Amir (18 yrs)
Soyam Asif (32 yrs)
Zarish Nazeer (25 yrs)
Saba Saleem (21 yrs)
Sunbal Prince (22 yrs)
Irum James (22 yrs)
Sadia Shehzad (25 yrs)
Rubina Zahid (30 yrs)
Asifa Javed ( 20 yrs)
Since August 2021, we have succeeded in developing learner skills in cutting and stitching of women’s clothing like shalwar kameez, western trousers, dresses and other garments. We are using contemporary designs in clothing but are now teaching more advanced techniques and working on creativity. Every student that has participated has thoroughly enjoyed the course and their is a palpable increase in their exhibited confidence. Every student that has participated has begun to earn good money for their families and this is garnering economic stability. The cost for keeping the school running is £450 per month which includes for hire of a building, teacher salary, equipment, utility services and admin costs. If you are able to help us continue this work please donate (here).
Nosheen Azam (30 yrs) is a married woman and has four children. Her husband works at the dumping site at Lakhoder. The meagre salary of her husband was not enough to feed and she chose to give up some of her equally paltry income for domestic cleaning, to improve the family financial position. She said:
“I am grateful for this course and have already acquired basic skills in stitching.
“I have put my skills to work and am earning more money for fewer hours and do not suffer the abuse that cleaning maidservants do.”
“I thank BACA and their donors for supporting this work that helps so many struggling families – may God bless you all.”
Another student, Komal Nafees (18 yrs) explained that she had to drop out of school during 9th grade so she could earn money to support her struggling family. Her father works as a janitor and the pittance he is paid for extremely arduous work meant she and her siblings all had to quit the education system.
“I am motivated to continue my studies.
“Learning at the stitching centre has allowed me to earn more with fewer hours.
“In a few months I should be able to return to school and continue earning outside of schools hours.
“If I work hard enough I can get my younger brothers and sisters back into school too.
“God has been merciful to our family – praise his name.”
Haroon Gill, who leads the charity we have partnered with, said:
“All the students on our course are thankful for the learning opportunity that funding from BACA has allowed.
“They are all developing improved confidence it is a joy to see the change in their lives.
“Successful students are given certificates which help them obtain respectable work in a competitive market.”
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“This project takes some of the most disenfranchised people in Pakistan from abject poverty to more sustainable lives.
“It is remarkable how quick the students turn their learning to an income stream and we have been blessed in seeing such progress.
“It is hard to think of any ethnic minority anywhere that is more persecuted or discriminated against than Pakistani Christian women.
“The gender disparity in Pakistan is wide and the persecution for non-Muslims in Pakistan is a globally recognised phenomenon.
“We pray that this small effort grows and is able to bring back some parity in quality of life for thousands of additional Christian families.”