Blog Post

N-Peace Award Winner: Shazia

Shazia, Shining Light’s Women’s Vocational Training Center Director won the N-Peace Award and we could not be more proud of her!

Shazia has dedicated the last decade of her life to empowering the women of Gilgit-Baltistan through vocational training, literacy skills classes, and hours of unseen conversations, emotional support, and guidance. She received the N-Peace Award in 2017 for her outstanding work in changing women’s lives in northern Pakistan and received her award in Bangkok, Thailand in January 2018.  Her passion and commitment to serving her community is what led her to receive this honor, and the changed lives of over 500 women are the legacy of her service!

Read on for her full interview with N-Peace Awards…

Farhat Sajjad – N-Peace Winner 2017

Well done Farhat Sajjad! A leader in women’s training and skills teaching to support their economic empowerment – a process that has resulted in bringing together disparate communities to learn from one another. #NPeaceAwards

Posted by N-Peace Awards on Tuesday, January 9, 2018

N: Please tell us your name and what you do.

S:  My name is Farhat Sajjad and I am working as the principal of the Women’s Vocational Training Center. 

N: How many ladies are at the women’s training center?

S: I have 25 students. We teach them cutting, sewing and other work such as knitting and embroidery. The women come to us to learn these things.

N: How many years have you been running the center?

S: We started this in 2007 and now it is 2016! It is our hope that this center will continue to grow and that more women will come, learn these skills and make progress in their own lives. 

N: Until now, how many students have graduated from the training center?

S: Between 2007 and 2016, 500 women have graduated. 

N: What are the future plans for the center?

S: We are thinking about moving towards a Lifestitch (handicraft and clothing manufacturing business) factory where our graduate students can come and apply the skills they have learned. They can work with us and will be paid for as many hours as they want to work. They will make many different things when they come to the factory. 

S: Our greatest wish is that more and more women will use these skills to earn an income and help their families. 

N: Is this happening? Are the women going home and helping their families?

S: Yes. They are going home and helping with the needs of their families. Many women who have learned these skills from us have gone on to get good government jobs. Some women are telling us that they have opened their own boutiques and some are making bed sheets. In this way, many of the women are telling us that they learned skills here and are now making good incomes to help their families, their children, their husbands. This is a very encouraging thing for us. We are happy. 

N: When the students graduate, what do you give them?

S: When the students have completed one year of training with us, we present them with a certificate and give them a sewing machine so that they won’t forget what they have learned. They can take the sewing machine and work to help their children and their husbands. They are very happy to get the machines and use them in their own way. 

N: What about Lifestitch? How many women are currently working there?

S: We have talked to many of our graduates about it. We ask them if they would be interested in working at Lifestitch if there is an opportunity and they say happily, “Yes! When can we start working in this factory so that we can help our children and our husbands?”. 

N: Are any of the women working at Lifestitch now?

S: Yes, we have a few women working with us. We are getting some orders. Sometimes Yobel Market or Mrs. Robin (Robin Gordon) give us big orders and that helps. We call our graduates to come and help with these big orders and we pay them for their work. 

N: What is your favorite thing to make at Lifestitch?

S: Scarf! Also, Mrs. Robin sent us some samples and we really enjoyed making them. All of the women said, “This is very good work. If these samples are selected, we would like to start making them”. 

N: The women who come for training…how are their lives changed?

S: When they come to us, many of the women are under a lot of stress, especially financially because this is an expensive area to live in. They can’t afford all of their family’s expenses. We tell them, “You can do this! You can learn this work.” After talking with us, some of the burden is lifted and they feel better. It’s the same for those who have done the training. We keep in touch with them and then invite them for more training or to work with us when there are orders. Because of this they feel that they are making a difference for their families. 

N: Can you tell a story about one woman who has come to the training center or is working in Lifestitch?

S: I have many examples, but there is one that I want to share with you. One woman came to me about 5 years ago for training. She had 4 kids and her husband had a job, but it was not enough income to meet all their needs. Her children were in school, but the fees were too much and she was very worried. So she did the training with us. As soon as she finished the training she was able to get a job with the police making all of their uniforms. Now she is making 45,000 rs per month and she is very happy. 

S: One of my neighbors took the training. She was from Hunza and got married here. She has two daughters now. She was telling me that she has opened her own boutique. Through her business she is helping her family. Before this she was very worried because the financial position of her family was very difficult. Her husband was the only one working. Now she tells me that she is helping her husband. 

N: Is the boutique in Gilgit or in Hunza?

S: Hunza. 

N: What are the biggest needs of the training center and Lifestitch?

S: Our staff is asking for advanced training so they can continue learning. They also want to be able to teach the graduates more skills in better ways. 

N: Do you have a message for the people watching this?

S: My message is this: many people have been praying for this work. My request is that they keep praying. It is because of their prayers that we have been able to reach this point. It is because of these prayers that women are learning new skills and are helping their families. I wish that in the future everyone who has prayed for us will have the chance to be here with us. They are with us in this work, but it is my hope that in the coming years each of them will have a chance to stand here with us and pray for us and support us.