In Multan, a city in Pakistan's eastern province of Punjab, a group of women is receiving training as solar panel technicians. This initiative is providing them with new income opportunities and raising their status in society.
The pioneering training program, which is funded by the Asian Development Bank, is opening up business and employment opportunities for women in a country where only 25 per cent of the female workforce is engaged in paid work.
Multan, Pakistan -- The city of Multan is the cultural hub of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province.
In Pakistan, only 25% of women work in the formal sector. But in Multan, women are now landing jobs in a non-traditional sector.
"In Pakistan, most job opportunities for women are in traditional fields like sewing or embroidering. We felt that in the energy sector the involvement of women is not sufficient," says Ehtesham Zafar Khattak, a Senior Project Officer from the ADB Pakistan Resident Mission.
"Because of the energy crisis, the fact that the women workforce in the power sector is not being utilized is felt even more."
The NGO ACTED, with the support of ADB, started training women as solar panel technicians. 54 women were trained in solar technology, entrepreneurship, leadership and women’s rights.
"I was surprised to hear that in Nawabpur, ACTED Pakistan has started a project on solar panel installation training for women," comments Sirbuland, a social activist from Multan.
"I was shocked to hear that this training is being conducted in areas where girls, traditionally, are not even allowed to leave their homes."
"Some people in our society doubt women’s ability to work," says Chandni, one of the women who received training in Multan.
"They say that becoming an electrician, which involves climbing on roofs and electrical poles, is a man's job."
Program trainees have become self-reliant and can now repair their own home appliances.
"My daughter is attending the training program and learning from it," says Ghulam Fatima, mother of a solar technician from Multan.
"Recently, she prepared an electrical board by herself and that made me very proud."
Trainees have installed solar units in many community spaces, including government schools.
"Another project that we are working on is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces where we are providing electricity through solar cells to all the government public schools and basic health units," comments ADB's Khattak.
"So, women who come to these markets with technical skills can benefit from new job opportunities."
The training program has given women opportunities and helped them improve their status in society.
"I have completed the solar panel technician training. I have gained a lot from it," proudly comments Naseem, one of the trainees.
"I learned how to run my own business and started installing solar panels. It has brought prosperity to my home."