A collective sigh of relief filled the classrooms of Balochistan’s Women’s Technical Training Centre as the ceiling fans whirred back to life, the lights flickered back on, and clean drinking water started to flow through the taps again.
Due to frequent power cuts and soaring costs of electricity, the Women’s Technical Training Centre (WWTC) in Pakistan’s Balochistan province battled searing heat and a lack of power needed to run computers throughout the day or even light up classrooms. The frequent interruptions ultimately affected enrollment, robbing both refugee and Pakistani women of the opportunity to develop new skills.
This year, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency stepped in to support the women’s institute by installing a solar system, to ensure an uninterrupted power supply and create a safe and nurturing environment for students. In addition, UNHCR provided equipment to enhance the vocational trades and skills training taking place.
The impact of the assistance was felt almost immediately with a sharp increase in the enrollment of women, both refugees and from the local host community.
“Due to UNHCR’s concrete support, including the provision of equipment as well as solarization of the institute, we were able to increase the capacity of the institute from 200 trainees per intake to 700,” said Ms. Shabnam Naz, who heads the Women’s Technical Training Centre.
Umefarwa, a Pakistani student who enrolled in ICT trade and dreams of becoming a pilot, is excited to continue her studies in a better learning environment without power interruptions. “I strongly believe that women need financial independence for a brighter future.”
The objective of the WTTC – which works under the provincial government – is to teach skills to women over a six-month period and enable them to become self-reliant, empowered, and financially independent. Courses are demand and market-driven and include IT, videography and graphic design, tailoring, as well as commercial cooking.
“Earlier the power cuts were frequent, and we were unable to work properly, but I am happy that I can now focus on my learning and work,” said Latifa Ziauddin, an Afghan who was enrolled in tailoring and sewing trade, and who plans to support her family with her new skills.
The institute is seen as not only a place where women come together to learn and receive certification but also a space to build relationships in a safe and inviting environment. “Energy access is not just a means of lighting up a facility or a room. It provides the spark for refugees to realize their dreams and brighten their lives,” noted Tanvir Ahmad, UNHCR Energy Officer.
UNHCR has rolled-out energy projects in refugee hosting areas across Pakistan, which are funded through the support of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the European Union and the United States, as part of a global strategy to transition to clean, renewable energy in refugee settlements and hosting areas.
Through the energy interventions and solarization, UNHCR has added more than 600 kilowatts of solar energy to schools, health units, water and sanitation facilities and other public and community facilities in 2022. Approximately 4,000 kilowatts of clean energy will be added in 2023.
“Energy is the key that unlocks the door to education, health, livelihoods, empowerment, and equality for displaced women, allowing them to rewrite the narrative of their lives,” added Ahmad.
By Humera Karim in Quetta and Qaiser Khan Afridi in Islamabad