Gilgit-Baltistan: Poverty Alleviation through Women Empowerment

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GILGIT (ET): The last seven years have been life-changing for Meher Parwar, a resident of Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) scenic Hunza Valley. From being dependent on men in a patriarchal society, she has become a skilled trainer who imparts vocational training to other women. The 30-year-old master trains, and so helps empower, the region’s women at a gemstone cutting and polishing centre in Hunza.

The venture is one of two well-equipped centres established under a USAID-funded programme titled ‘Technology Transfer and Skill Development in Gems Sector’. The project is being executed in Hunza and Chitral by Rupani Foundation, an NGO working to alleviate poverty by enhancing marketable skills of women.

G-B is rich in rubies, emeralds, sapphires and topaz, to name a few. According to experts, more than 60 types of precious and semi-precious stones are found in the region.

“I got interested in gemstones nearly seven years ago,” said Parwar, who completed a four-month extensive training course on gemstone cutting and polishing in 2013 under the supervision of a Sri Lankan expert in Hunza. Nine other women also completed the master trainers course, which enables them to further train a workforce of around 100 people in the science of gemstone cutting and polishing.

“This is not just a mere training course; it is much more. It gives one a feeling of inner satisfaction,” said one recently trained woman.

“Helping out so many families by passing on skills we learn is a great feeling,” she added. After becoming a master trainer, she earns a salary of Rs20,000 per month.

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