Residency Program Empowers Women of FATA
Faiza Asghar, a student of International Relations at Peshawar University, did not know much about entrepreneurship, crises communication, or business development. That was, however, before she attended a five-day residency program in Nathia Gali on the theme of entrepreneurship and crises communication with 20 other young women.
“The past five days have taught me the meaning of confidence, communication, and group work,” she says.
The five-day residency program titled “Entrepreneurship and Crises Communication” engaged 20 female students hailing from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for an intensive training program incorporating hands-on approach for developing entrepreneurial skills in the participants. This project was the brainchild of Global Undergraduate Exchange Program alumnus Waheedullah and took place from October 21 – 25, 2016.
This was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN). All alumni of various U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to 5,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.
Nurturing the Spirit of Entrepreneurship
Uzma Ali Afridi was not quite sure how the residency would add to her professional development. However, she was in for a pleasant surprise while attending the training with Sana Ejaz, an alumna of the International Visitors Leadership Program and a social activist, who gave a session on “Crises Communication.” Afridi says, “As a journalist, I learned key skills for public communication that will help me immensely in my career. Ms. Ejaz’s session provided us a practical approach to crises communication.”
During the five-day program, sessions on basics of entrepreneurship, digital entrepreneurship, developing a business plan and a business pitch, and crises communication took place in a resort nestled among the lush green forests of Nathia Gali.
Sajjad Ali from U.K. Aid, the lead trainer, was impressed by the energy of the participating women. “I was pleasantly happy to see the participants coming up with questions and having an open discussion on innovation.” He adds, “The setting of the residency program in the hills further nurtured the dialogue and discussion.”
The participating women were students of different fields, including International Relations, Mass Communication, Law, and Business. Memuna Ashraf, a student of Business Administration at the University of Peshawar says, “I did not expect the sessions to be so exhaustive in nature. But, even though I have learned many of the terms in my Master’s program, I was still able to learn so much more! The most important of them being coordination, cooperation, and tolerance.”
Consolidating the Learning: Aspiring Entrepreneurs Pitch their Plans
The residency program culminated in groups of aspiring entrepreneurs presenting their business plans, ranging from solar chips that acted as chargers to drone ambulance cameras, and defending its feasibility and scalability.
Asma Fareed from Mohmand Agency pitched the idea of starting an apparel venture inspired by the traditional dresses of FATA. “By working on a business venture in groups, I have learned the importance of teamwork, time management, and leadership.” She adds, “Presenting the final pitch really helped boost my confidence.”
Kainat Shah from Peshawar University, a participant in the program, said that this excursion helped her understand entrepreneurship from a practical standpoint. “I am equipped with the tools and techniques to translate my ideas into entrepreneurial ventures.”
For Waheedullah, the training was a step in empowering women of FATA with technical, creative and leadership skills. “This training was the first exposure visit for our participants. Therefore, we incorporated a cultural evening and a hiking trip along with the training program to truly nurture the inner leader that resides in these powerful women.”