In a remote village (Chak No. 319 GB) of Tehsil Pir Mehal, District Toba Tek, Punjab, Zahida Bibi lives in a mud-bricks house with her four daughters and a son. To make her ends meet, she works as domestic workers in different households to earn money and support her husband who is differently abled. But she also makes sure to provide education to her children. The two elder daughters have completed intermediate (12 grade) while others are studying in 6th and 9th grades. Zahida Bibi is known to be among those few women who never give up and keep fighting against the odds of life. However, due to the pandemic, the last two years have not been easy for the family as they experience serious financial stress.
Zahida Bibi’s two elder daughters want to play their part to financially support the family. However, they neither have required minimum education to get a decent job, nor the skills to start their own home based business venture. One day, Sumera (the elder daughter) heard about a vocational training institute, a government-run institute in the area that trains women to acquire skills needed to start home based businesses. When Sumera told her mother (Zahida Bibi) about the institution, she immediately hesitated to give her the permission. Zahida Bibi had no idea about the institute; how it functions, whether it is safe or not, how will the offered courses help her daughter and etc.
During the same time, Transparency International Pakistan organized a Right to Information workshop in Pir Mehal. In all our outreach activities, we encourage equal participation of women. In this event, which was held on 30th May 2021, 11 females including Zahida Bibi participated. She learned how RTI law enables citizens to acquire information from public bodies. After the event she decided to file an RTI application with the Vocation Training Institute, Punjab to acquire necessary information. Our partner NGO, Social Welfare Society, helped her draft and file an RTI application under Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. Her RTI application requested the following information:
- When was the institution established?
- How many students have graduated from Vocation Training Institutes in Punjab?
- How many graduates of VTIs in Punjab have acquired jobs
- How many graduates of VTIs in Punjab are running their businesses and which
- courses they offer?
To her surprise, the Punjab Vocational Training Institute (VTI) department provided her the required information which established her confidence in the functioning of such institutions. Normally, public institutions are reluctant to provide any sort of information verbally, let alone in writing under the RTI law despite the fact that the law mandates them to provide the requested information.
A simple act of the provision of information regarding the functioning of the institution enhanced Bilqis confidence and she not only felt comfortable with her daughter taking admission in the institute, but strongly felt that such an opportunity to acquire vocational training will empower her daughter to initiate her business venture and help overcome family’s financial woes.
The institute offers free of cost courses and provide a monthly stipend of Rs.500/- to its students. Sumera has taken an admission in the Beautician course, and aspires to open a Beauty Parlor at home to support her family. On a broader scale, the whole story motivates mothers like Zahida Bibi to confidently send her daughters to these institutes where they can learn different skills and start supporting their family during the tough times of Covid-19. TI Pakistan will continue empowering women so they can exercise their rights and make good use of the opportunities to change their social status.