KARACHI: “People tried to frighten me as they didn’t know what TAFF-VTI was but I knew I wanted to do this as it could change my life and it did” said Sultana Sultana, 35, mother to a disabled child, who is one of the females to have completed her training from TAFF- VTI. When her husband left her, she had struggled to support herself and made both ends meet by working as a housemaid. Sultana came across TAFF-VTI at one of their open-house sessions in her neighbourhood and decided to join the programme. Sultana completed her training in March 2017 and since then she has been placed into a housekeeping job at a home where she earns Rs 30,000 a month. Another student of the Elderly Care Assistant course, Neelam Pari, living on Metrovile, said that “the training has transformed my life and I have become punctual and social, and am confident that after this training I will soon have a good job as well.” Adima, senior instructor of cooking at TAFF-VTI who has previously worked at Pearl Continental, elaborated, “We are not only teaching our students cooking, but also other culinary skills such as food safety and table manners. This makes them better at their jobs.” Humaira Samo, cooking and housekeeping trainee, shared her experience, saying: “I used to feel that my life is over but studying at TAFF has made me feel alive again. I feel like my life can also be productive now. Even before my course is complete, companies and individuals are coming to interview us, who makes me feel confident and I’m sure I will have a good job in future,” she added. Aatiqa Lateef, CEO TAF Foundation explained that TAF Foundation’s Vocational Training Institute (TAFF-VTI) works towards the structured skill development of less privileged women, for producing a much-needed skilled workforce and creating a sustainable source of revenue. Aatiqa recalled the problems she faced trying to find a trained female staff for herself, “I realized that there is a significant shortage of qualified female staff in Pakistan to meet the demands in various categories of domestic help. This also applies to the services sector for trained female staff.” She added, “In this scenario, we’ve launched a unique initiative through TAFF, introducing new dimensions in women empowerment as we believe in image-building of our students and working for the long-term sustainability to bring more positive change in women’s lives.” She elaborated that TAFF is now offering cooking and housekeeping, Elderly Care, and Customer Service and Retail Sales courses. TAFF’s programme is based on three-tiers: Recruitment, Training and Placement. Besides vocational skills, students are trained in key soft-skill areas like manners, communication skills, financial empowerment, professionalism, ethics and values. They are also legally empowered through creating awareness on important topics like their fundamental and contractual rights. The Recruitment Coordinator Ms Noreen Amin, told that TAFF-VTI has recruited women from across Karachi mostly from marginalised localities of the city, aged 18-45 years with basic reading and writing capability. According to her, 15-week vocational training programme covers different aspects of professionalism with the learning material and programs being designed in consultation with industry partners. Noreen shared, “Our graduates so far have been placed at MCR, Pizza Hut, Cupola [KFC], Espresso, UBL and Dawood Foundation as our contract is underway with Ramada Hotel, Marriot Hotel, TCS and Hemani.” “All programmes have been developed to enable women in Pakistan not only with a professional skill set but to also empower them with a legal and financial understanding of their rights as women. We have seen that these additional skills have had a transformational impact on their personal lives,” Noreen added. Published in Daily Times, December 27th 2017.