This is part of a limited, annual, series, “14 Days, 14 Stories”, about ordinary Pakistanis who are doing extraordinary things in order to give back to Pakistan.
Earning a respectable living is increasingly hard, in the world. Pakistanis living below the poverty line are increasing everyday and for them it is becoming impossible to make ends meet, couple that with a lack of good opportunities, things don’t look bright at all.
Atiqa, a working woman from Pakistan, saw the need to help provide respectable means of earning for underprivileged women and started an organization to train them with skills, for free
In order to help provide respectable means of earning, with even the most basic job skills, Aatiqa Lateef whose daytime job is as the CEO of the TAF Foundation where women are trained in cooking, housekeeping, nanny care etc. free of cost. They are then provided with employment with the right families and with adequate salary packages.
To date, they have launched a professional training program for women in Cooking & Housekeeping. They also teach them legal and financial empowerment as a part of their soft skills training.
“The TAF Foundation is actually my brainchild and an idea I had thought on for almost 10 years”
“As a working woman myself, I needed reliable professional help in my own home but simply couldn’t find the right person or take the time to train them. My only option for good reliable help was to import workers from abroad, but it pained my conscience that others and I were importing such help while an entire marginalized group of women in Pakistan were sitting at home unable to make both ends meet. All that was needed was an institution to train and professionalize Pakistani women who were willing and able, and then help them find safe and secure jobs that would positively impact their lives. The object was to meet the demand by creating the supply and thus a win/win for both sides of the equation,” tells Aatiqa while sharing the inspiration behind her foundation.
These women are provided with international level training, job placements and other facilities
Transport, lunch, insurance coverage, facilitation in bank account opening, field trips and a financial incentive in the form of a stipend are all some of the incentives that women studying at TAF Foundation receive.
This is the first of its kind program in Pakistan. Aatiqa and her team created instruction manuals along with finding and training the right professional instructors for the courses and, she shares, it was a challenge to convince people to join a program and execute a concept that’s never been heard of before.
Atiqa also shares how it was a struggle to get potential students to join the courses. She says, “convincing the potential students that with us, they could change their lives for the better has been one of the biggest challenges. This under-served segment of the population is skeptical, fearful and simply not exposed to the world. It took a real grass roots type initiative to convince the pilot batch to join us and stay with us for 4 months, and we promised them we would keep them safe and place them into secure positions that allowed them to earn a proper livelihood with dignity.”
According to Aatiqa, convincing Pakistani employers to pay respectable salaries to Pakistani females trained at international standards has been the most daunting challenge
“We have worked hard to not only transform the students into professionals but also the market place’s perception of local domestic help. To convince people that these were not ‘Maasis’ we were graduating but instead, trained House Managers who deserved a particular level of pay took time, but the market is responding positively,” tells Aatiqa while talking to MangoBaaz.
The organization is now moving on to recruiting and training women for elderly care, retail, hotels, restaurants, transportation businesses etc.
“The success of our ‘Cooking and Housekeeping’ program indicates that the same model can be applied in training women for different vocations. TAF Foundation has been approached by various organizations hoping to recruit from the Vocational Training Institute or requesting new programs to be developed which will feed TAF Foundation graduates into the their industries,” we are told.
“Currently, our class size is normally 70-80 students that go through the four-month term training program. We expect to take that to 1000 students per term over the next few years,” continues Aatiqa.
Women studying at the Foundation are trained to become independent, respectable earning hands for themselves and their families
The training program is designed keeping in view the importance of providing real-time experience to the students for which guest speakers from the industry are also invited regularly to speak to the students about employer expectations and work requirements
“TAF Foundation, from the beginning of the project worked on the principle of non-dependence on foreign donors and relied completely on local Zakat/ Donation funds provided by the patrons of the organization. Furthermore, in order to become a sustainable organization, we charge one-time placement fee from employers at the time of hiring.,” explains Aatiqa while illustrating on the financial dynamics of the organization.
“I’m very pleased to say that we have almost 90% placement of our graduates and hope to match the growing market demand through scaling of the program itself,” Atiqa concludes.
If you’re interested in participating with the TAF Foundation or being a helping hand, you can reach out to them here.
For more stories from our series about extraordinary Pakistanis check out “14 Days, 14 Stories“.