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Hi bikash gurung  Ashley Tillman Your inputs and these conversations have been instrumental in helping us further articulate and define our work. Thank you so much for this interest and questions. In addition to the existing artisan training on actual crafting of products, the curriculum piloted so far has focused on integrating computer skills to financial literacy and English language so that these new skills can complement their artisan work. For example, our content includes how to budget and to do costing of production to generate product cost using Excel, communication and marketing (photography, social media for products) so that artisans can reach a broader market and be able to reference online materials which are prevalently in English. Using features like Google Translate (for the 1st time for artisan women!) was helpful to acquaint with both local language (typing, learning letters) as well as hearing and speaking English. Conversational English is a priority so women can communicate with customers, foreigners and tourists interested in the women’s products. But as we develop the project, the plan is to host online literacy materials (both English and local language literacy activities) that can be easily accessed on the Center’s computers.
 
Current challenges are timing and sequencing of project activities. We are continuing with the vocational training, but until the Center matures with funding support to lead to self-sustaining business, replacing older computers, implementing the clean energy source through solar power, etc., it will remain at current training levels. Related to this, without the added Center features, the use of the Center for the community has not yet been possible to scale and we look forward to growth in this area in the 2nd phase.

Some conversations with women have already been taking place on sensitive topics, such as traditional customs related to gender issues. While the project plan integrates life skills and soft skills to utilize information for building the culture of respect, empathy, teamwork to break down gender barriers, varying perspectives that have emerged among the group of women have led to some tension. While we anticipated this, this has happened sooner than we had planned, so the project is working to catch up with additional content and facilitator preparation in areas such as mediation and conflict resolution to address these issues and help facilitate more constructive dialogue. Based on this, the plan is to integrate deeper reflective aspects into the more “functional” aspects of the vocational program. We are hoping that considerations of these parts will make the intervention more cohesive.

We are defining peace in our project as gender equity, and planet under the scope of renewable and clean energy. We are utilizing the access to sustainable clean energy to address inequities faced by women with social (education, training for women, peer networks) and productive (economic /employment growth, income-generating activities) components seen to contribute to peace.

Hi Ashley Tillman Thank you for your thoughtful question. It made us further think about sustained, meaningful project. Tara United for Hope brought up a critical point about investing time to build a sense of agency to empower voicing thoughts and personal goals, with the delicate balancing act that is required in the contexts in which we work. Our project began to further brainstorm on capturing personal goals and transformations that take place over time (in addition to the program-related indicators we shared previously on employment, skills acquisition). One aspect is pre and post qualitative self-assessment, observations and interviews that may shed some light on a personal transformation over the course of a time. We believe observational approach is meaningful because in our conversations with women (and men) in the community, we found that even though they may not state their personal goals in those exact terms, they share through their life stories and experiences that there are aspirations (ie. being able to teach their children English and computer skills--which informed our curriculum content, or raising their daughters to be more empowered). We are also considering peer evaluations (more accurately, peer observations and support) in which a more intimate and organic relationship built among women over time in the group, can more accurately speak for the changes they have observed in their peers. We think this will be much more real and meaningful to include in our framework, while keeping our more programmatic observations as well. It is inspired by the type of participatory approach utilized in REFLECT theory of social change and empowerment. Thank you, Haein

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Haein commented on Pak Foundation High School

Dear Maira, thank you for the mention, I am happy to hear the idea submission from my team inspired your idea. I was interested to know how technology education is done in your school-- are they taught as a computer class to teach digital skills? Or is technology being incorporated into main subject classes? How are the instructors (my understanding is that they are Comsats University volunteers?) vetted and stay committed to the project? Best wishes on your project!