While Barakat’s Evening School for Girls continues to gain interest from refugee girls in Pakistan, families there are still faced with the difficult choice of either sending their daughters to school or sending them to weave carpets for a meager, but helpful, wage. Barakat’s teachers have had hundreds of conversations with parents about the value of educating their daughters, and while the Evening School educates more than 75 girls every year, economic roadblocks often cloud the benefits of an education.
Now in its third month, the BLISS project, started by MIT alumna Saba Gul, is seeing a positive response to its embroidery program. The project includes 33 girls who currently attend Barakat’s evening school and has brought in five students who are new to the evening school and have never before attended school. Program participants earn a wage that is slightly higher than the one they would earn if they skipped school and wove carpets instead. The girls show up an hour early for Barakat’s class each evening and embroider handbags, a skill they are already very competent in as it is part of the Turkmen tradition. This hour before regular class will eventually include instruction in health, hygiene and business skills, all of which complement Barakat’s current evening school curriculum.
Saba, who established the BLISS program in her home country of Pakistan, points out the significance of the target audience for the evening school program. “The girls in BLISS are between 13 and 25 years old. While there were many older and younger women who wanted to join the program, the BLISS mission focuses on school-aged girls.” Were it not for Barakat’s evening school, most of these girls would not be allowed to attend school, and the BLISS program sees this age as an optimal time to equip these girls with greater business knowledge and life skills, which will lead to stronger businesses and healthier, more educated families.
Read more about BLISS in action on the Project BLISS website!