Pakistan sits just at the edge of the lowest quartile of countries by GDP per person. It faces significant social challenges, with one of the highest infant mortality rates, only three out of five children attending primary school, and more than 60% of its population aged 29 and younger. Malnutrition is cited as affecting more than 40% of the population, and violence against minorities has increased over the past year.
These trends fuel the work of The Aman Foundation. Launched in September 2008 by Founding Trustees Fayeeza and Arif Naqvi, with $100 million in seed money from the family’s Aman Trust, the foundation’s mission is to champion “dignity and choice for the underserved in Pakistan through Sustainable, Scalable, and Systemic development in the areas of health and education.” (Arif Naqvi is the Founder and Group CEO of the Abraaj Group, a leading private equity investor operating in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Turkey.)
Underpinning Aman’s intervention in education is AmanTech, a vocational training program that provides Karachi’s underserved youth with skills training and linkages to employment opportunities. In a recent move, US Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with AmanTech to help expand the program and train 3,600 students, by providing $7 million in funding that will be matched by Aman with $1 million.
AmanTech offers core skills training in 14 trades at its Karachi facility. To ensure a well-rounded curriculum, AmanTech’s training program includes theory as well as hands-on experience. Students benefit from career guidance, and those who qualify receive internationally recognized diplomas from City & Guilds (UK), which makes them attractive candidates on the international job market. AmanTech facilitates job placement by conducting extensive outreach to develop linkages between organizations that will help program participants. Students have found work locally in Pakistan and abroad in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.
Participants of AmanTech have progressed quickly in their careers. One student began as a factory worker and was promoted to a managerial role in five months. The expertise he gained provided an economic benefit, as secure job placement has allowed him to financially support his family. Another student spoke highly of the personal skill training that AmanTech provided including communications training and English classes, which have helped him develop professionally.
SAID’s involvement with The Aman Foundation is just one of the agency’s many commitments in support of Pakistan’s development. In fact, according to the USAID website, in the five years up to May 2015, the agency:
- Built/renovated 989 schools serving more than 300,000 students;
- Trained more than 7,000 new teachers;
- Trained more than 1,300 university and college faculty in new teaching methods, and provided more than 1,595 scholarships to aspiring Pakistani teachers, 70 percent going to women;
- Awarded more than 2,500 scholarships to talented but low income and otherwise disadvantaged students to attend local universities; and
- Awarded 1,238 scholarships since 2005 through the largest Fulbright Program in the world.
By granting the Aman Foundation with funds to expand AmanTech’s vocational training program, USAID is wisely leveraging the local momentum created by The Aman Foundation’s initial investment. By furthering the mission of AmanTech to offer skills training to underserved youth, USAID is working strategically in partnership with an enterprising local organization to be a force for good in Pakistan.
Farah Naz Ahmad is a Sustainability Plan Examiner for the NYC Department of Buildings. She previously worked for the New York City School Construction Authority. Farah brings her communications skills to the American Pakistan Foundation in the hope of raising awareness about her cultural origins.