PESHAWAR: A two-day career fair that ended on Thursday will encourage women to expand their work horizons in traditionally male-dominated Pushtun society, organizers believe.
The Women’s Employability Summit and Career Fair, organized by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University in Peshawar, was the first of its kind in Pakistan’s conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
Students and graduates from 21 women’s colleges of KP and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) attended the fair, where they met more than 30 employers who offered jobs to graduates and internships to students, said Sehrish Zafar, assistant director university advancement and media.
She said that the university had signed an agreement with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) that will allow it to take over the Women Business Development Center of SMEDA, which helps students and graduates launch startups.
About 30 stalls offered promotions at the fair. Sana Ikram, of Fazaia College of Education for Women, who was managing a Montessori education stall, said: “Our institution offers one-year diploma and also short courses in the Montessori method of education. We are here to raise awareness among people about this method of education because we offer training for teachers.”
Items on display in the stall had been brought from Australia and included numerical rods to teach numeracy to children and geometrical insets that help pupils learn how to hold pencils.
Ikram said that women in KP mostly prefer teaching jobs and face problems in other fields.
Zahwa Khan, a 22-year-old student at the university, runs a business from home cutting and polishing gemstones with help from her brother. She said online videos had taught her techniques to improve her work.
Women had been given the role of housewife in society, but events such as the career fair sent a message that they could do many other things, including jobs and businesses, she said.
Fariha Jaffar Bajwa, a member of the National Commission on the Status of Women, told Arab News that the event was unique in KP because it was exclusively for women. She said there was a time when women would be barred from education but now their education rate was improving.
“It’s the same in the case of jobs,” she said. “Although jobs and businesses at one time were not considered appropriate for women, now society is changing — but change doesn’t come overnight,” she said.
“According to law, women also have a 10 percent quota in jobs, in addition to open merit, but the implementation of the law is an issue,” said Bajwa, a lawyer based in Islamabad.
The university’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dr. Razia Sultana, said that the province would have a strong job market in future and that the region would be a business hub under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.
“The special economic zones being developed in KP require people with professional and other skills and hopefully these will employ a good number of women,” she said.
Sultana said several companies had offered jobs and internships to graduates and students at the event, including Jubilee Insurance, with 100 positions, and Pearl Continental, with three positions.
“Boys often have networks and job opportunities. Today’s career fair for female graduates and students is like a network to raise awareness among both employers and students, and to bridge the gap between the academic and applied sides,” she said.
Students often married during or shortly after their studies, and the career fair also provided graduates with "soft" jobs they could do at home to support their families, Sultana said.