LAHORE: Kaarvan Crafts Foundation, working for the economic empowerment of women in low-income communities, is organising a series of workshops with multiple institutions in Lahore in connection with International Day of Rural Women being observed today (October 15). These workshops aim at mainstreaming gender into educational institutions and developing community engagement with the youth to build capacity for gender sensitivity, gender tolerance and respect for human rights. Institutions where these workshops are going to be held include Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Beaconhouse National University (BNU) and Kaarvan’s Livestock Training Centre at Kasur. Through online discussion, workshops, photo studies, and short films, Kaarvan hopes to explore a gender-responsive vision.“Everyone has the right to express themselves. In Pakistan this right is mostly claimed and coveted by the elite – people with power who create our norms, our standards, and our narrative. Kaarvan believes in inclusivity for all, especially for the marginalised low-income females living in rural areas of Pakistan,” the foundation said in a statement. According to Kaarvan Crafts Foundation CEO Danish Jabbar Khan, in order to diminish some of this unbalanced power dynamics present in our culture, Kaarvan wishes to create a safe space for dialogue between two communities (the rural & the urban) who normally do not communicate with each other. “By creating a safe space for discussion we are letting the rural women speak for themselves rather than speaking for them. This is an action towards mainstreaming a gender perspective by bringing rural women to the front.”He said that objectives behind organising these workshops were to shift the perspective from sympathy to empathy towards the rural women and exercise self-reflection and self-identification to become more aware of our underlying thoughts or perhaps biases that guide our behavior. “To listen respectfully to a person’s story is to honour that person’s intrinsic worth and to empower the storyteller in a constructive way.” Once all workshops with the educational institutions are held, Kaarvan Foundation will hold learning sharing conference, on a date to be notified later, where different educational institutions will share their findings with each other.Kaarvan Crafts Foundation is a non-profit organisation and a hub of innovation, passion and humility, providing training to women in rural areas in order to build their confidence to participate in local decision-making and working towards collective movement for a culture of peace from a gender perspective, enhancing relational capacities through skills development pertaining not only to profession but also communication, critical thinking and transformation of problems into opportunities. Published in Daily Times, October 15th 2017.