As shared by Ms. Bernadette, a teacher at the URI Vocational Sewing Centre in Hasilpur Cholliston, South Punjab:
URI is well known for its interest in interfaith harmony and specially its keen interest in empowerment of women and their equality as human beings. For this purpose, URI Women Wing was established in Pakistan in March 2008. And to enhance its activities further around the globe, URI Women’s Initiative was established in 2012.
Sr. Sabina Rifat was chosen as Coordinator of URI Women Wing in Pakistan. She is dedicated to uplifting women and children: working for their education, formation and vocational skills through peace activities, interfaith harmony and education. She is now on focusing on women skill training and homeless children, especially small girls who are very easily exposed to be abused. As she is totally dedicated to her cause, it brought a major change in the community of Hasilpur. Many women who have witnessed Sr. Sabina in action, some who are currently sweeping the roads for their earning, are very interested in this skill training and are earning their living by stitching clothes for others.
The name of her organization is WAKE (Women and Kids’ Education). Sr. Sabina says, “if we trained women in professional skills it will be possible for them to earn their bread with dignity and to give better formation to their children and families thus bringing a positive change in an intolerant society.”
To give basic education to the children means to give a chance to them to live with liberty and discernment and bring a change in economy. This will bring a decrease in crime rate and increase in better relationship and acceptance of others without any prejudice. It will gradually bring a positive change in society and a better future for minorities in Pakistan. However, Sr. Sabina’s aim is always to work with Christians, Muslims and other human beings.
“It will also be a chance for us to work on interfaith harmony as for now the conflict among people of different religions and sectarianism is mounting high especially in undeveloped areas like ours in Hasilpur,” she says.
“Our purpose is to bring peace and harmony among Christians and Muslims and give a chance to them to work together and accept each other as equal human beings through workshops, seminars and vocational trainings.”
Volunteers of WAKE CC helped all through this program. Sr. Sabina is especially thankful to Biff Barnard, former URI Acting Executive Director, and Maria Crespo, Director of Member Support, and the URI Women’s Initiative for their great favour to continue this vocational training program and see it through to its graduation ceremony. The women trainees and the people of Hasilpur are extremely thankful to them for this great support through which the women will bring a radical change in their family life.
A recent award ceremony was held in the URI Vocational Centre in Hasilpur, Cholistan, South Punjab on 27th December 2021. Diplomas were given to 18 women (14 Christian and 4 Muslims). The program began with interfaith prayers by representatives of Christian and Muslim faiths. Sr. Sabina and Mrs. Rani Augustine were the chief guests of this ceremony. Augustine Anwar, the facilitator of this training, led a prayer for peace in Pakistan and all over the world.
Teacher Bernadette told the audience that this training to women of Hasilpur has proven to help local women stand on their own feet, instead of going to work in other rich people houses and sweeping the roads. Before, most of the time they are mistreated physically, psychologically and financially. Sometimes there are threats to their faith also; at times they are accused of theft and desecrating Islam. But after this training, most of the women and girls already have started earning their own money. Some of the women have related that they could even send their children to school. Mrs. Mariam James told the audience that she is already earning 6 to 7 thousand rupees per month due to this training. The women were extremely thankful to Sr. Sabina who could provide them this vocational training. In her speech, Sr. Sabina told the ordinance that it was only possible because of the interest of URI and the URI Women Initiative in women’s empowerment and interfaith harmony. The trainees then presented a tableau on the change in their lives this training has brought.
The trainees gave displays of their own work: dresses, embroidery work and sample books. Outstanding women were given sewing machines as an appreciation of their work. Mr. Anwar appreciated the dedication of Sr. Sabina Rifat in this very challenging place and situation. He found it very encouraging that due to this training 18 families have been up lifted and interfaith harmony was boosted up. He wished that these trainings may be continued in the future because when we train one woman, we train one family. Through these training we can bring positive, solid change in the society. He also thanked URI for this great help and effort. Muslim women expressed their gratitude and pledged their support for all URI Women Wing activities. This ceremony was held in a very poor local house. The success of this URI vocation Training Centre in spite of utter poverty and difficulties marked the good will and acceptance of the local community.
May Peace Prevail on Earth!