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It’s all about taste and healthy eating; Something is cooking

By Sheher Bano

The mouth-watering menu included Chicken Karahi, Mash ki daal and Raita all for only Rs. 230, which the girls of Professional cooking trade were preparing to be delivered to the surrounding offices. Finely packed in small silver foiled boxes, the deal is enough for 2-3 people. The aroma and taste of finger licking food was a food lover’s delight. The next day’s menu was to be Chicken chop suey and more menu was in the pipeline.

Women Technical Training Centre (WTTC) had started an incubator for these girls, who were enrolled as the first batch of Professional Cook Level-II as a part of Competency Based Training (CBT). They are given free shop space in the centre’s premises along with groceries and other cooking items for 2-3 months free of cost by the centre so that they could stand on their feet. The deal’s prices are kept much lower than the market rates to bring maximum clientele. “Once the girls are able to gather good clientele, they will continue this business with their own capital”, says Ms. Shabnam Naz, a smiling, proactive principal of WTTC, Samangali Road, Jinnah Town, Quetta.

“Besides supplying in offices, we the teachers also buy these deals to promote our girls. The thought of taking home good hygienic food made in our centre under the guidance of our trainers, is an add delight for us the working mothers. All we need is to buy roti (bread) and have it”, adds Ms. Shabnam Naz.

WTTC, working since 1989 under the Labour and Manpower Department of Government of Balochistan, is situated in the heart of Quetta city. The centre is offering courses in three trades vis-a-vis IT Computer Operator, Professional Cook, with 20 girls in each and 22 in IT Office Assistant course to keep the possibility of any drop-outs.  Under the cooperative training mode of CBT (Competency Based Training) students undergo a 4-month institutionalized training at the centre after which they go for 2-month on the job training (OJT) at the enterprises, where they get hands on experience of the industry.

The courses are part of a special training fund for Sindh and Balochistan, which was set up by the TVET Sector Support Programme, funded by the European Union and Germany and Norwegian governments in order to prepare young people for the labour market. The fund supports training institutes to develop and provide tailor-made programmes for enterprises. The objective is to facilitate the training of 18,000 men and women in Sindh and Balochistan and assist them in finding employment after graduation.

Besides these courses, the centre also conducts one-year diploma courses in dress making, computer graphics, commercial cooking, screen printing (4-months). Short courses in English language, Tie and Die, baking and cooking are also conducted in the centre.

“Though the cooking trainees went to various kitchens for their OJT, yet the jobs in cooking trade are hard to be filled due to strict cultural values of Balochistan, which restricts women mobility and has yet to see girls working in five-star hotels or any gourmet shop. In order to compensate for this, we have started this incubator. But the excellence these girls acquired during the training came to light when the cooking girls won a gold medal and certificates in a local competition and received their honours by Ms. Rahila Durrani, the ex-speaker of Balochistan assembly”, says Tahira Yasmmen, the CCJP (Career Counseling & Job Placement centre) Officer at the centre, the centers which are working for the personal grooming of the students and facilitating them to obtain relevant jobs

 “The best thing about these courses is that we were counseled about the concept of self-employment and entrepreneurship. So, starting a business from home is one option, though doing a job in a hotel isn’t a remote possibility for me as my family, believing in women empowerment, will have no inhibition about my job”, says Nosheen, who along with her sister is among the first batch of 20 cooking girls at WTTC, Quetta. Coming from nearby Chaman Housing, just 10 minutes’ drive from the centre, Nosheen is doing her MA in English literature, but her passion for cooking motivated her to do cooking course. The daughter of a retired contractor and builder, she wants to add to the family income, which at the moment is derived from the rent of houses.

Shagufta, another cooking trainee coming from Faqeer Mohammad Road, Quetta, a 20-25 minutes’ drive from the centre, endorsed Nosheen’s views: “The way we were given baking courses, cannot be learnt in home environment. It gives option to purdah observing girls like me to start online selling of items like cake, pastries, Shami Kebab etc.” Shagufta after doing her graduation, got admission in the centre after seeing an ad in the newspapers and is now motivating her friends and relatives to join these courses.

For Iram Ghazala, having done her MA fine Art and is pursuing B. Ed: “Both fine art and cooking are creative fields and I am sure my education of fine arts will help me, in doing cooking with more creativity. With almost no possibility of getting a government job or doing a hotel job after this course, I see a silver lining in self-employment (work from home) through this course and help my father, who is a retired teacher and my mother who does stitching to augment family’s income. The culinary experience I have received here will pave my way forward,” says Iram with a glint of hope in her eyes as she chose to come to Quetta from Sibbi, where she was living with her family, only for this course. She is staying with her brother in Quetta.

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