With the advent of the digital revolution, the assistance and knowledge provision of digital literacy to the youth is no longer a novel phenomenon; it is characterized as a basic necessity in today’s digital era. NIC Peshawar has committed to promoting technological entrepreneurship. Yet to be an integral part of the technological eco-system, one needs to have integrated skillsets of digital competency and cognitive ability. In addition to digital literacy and compatibility with the digital horizon, it is essential to empower the marginalized sections of the society mainly; women especially the ones belonging to the lower socio-economic segments. In the quest for women empowerment and imparting digital literacy, NIC assisted Ran’aa foundation in achieving what is considered a milestone in inclusivity and technologically developing regions such as Peshawar.

Ran’aa Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to providing primary education, nutritional and health assistance to the street children deprived of basic needs and requirements. Ran’aa Foundation powered by IDRF, a non-profit Canadian registered charity working with partners around the world and locally to facilitate relief and development programs and in assistance with NIC Peshawar initiated the project, “Computer Education Project – Pakistan”.

Computer Education Project-Pakistan aimed to develop a pipeline ecosystem at a grass-root level. The project was initiated to address two major issues i.e. to impart basic technological and digital literacy to tech-illiterate and destitute women and to aid underprivileged female artisans in establishing their home-based businesses on various digital platforms to generate a stable income and exposure to a larger audience.

The beneficiaries served through this project with the absolute support and prompt assistance provided by NIC Peshawar were divided into two categories. The first category included young girls who lacked the bare minimum knowledge regarding operating technical equipment such as the laptops provided by the IDRF. The second category included young girls who were at first equipped with the vocational skills such as stitching and cooking in hopes of becoming financially independent. Afterward, these artisans through this program and sessions conducted by NIC Peshawar were imparted with the digital knowledge to establish their businesses on digital platforms. To mind the demeanor of women and protect their honor, the male member of their families restrict them from working outside the vicinity of their homes, therefore, most of these women seek to work from home. Hence, for the sustainability and profitability of their businesses, it was crucial to introduce them to social media platforms and empower them digitally. NIC Peshawar rendered its conspicuous services to equip the women with the pertinent digital and technological comprehension to succeed in today’s saturated and dynamic market. Peshawar has divergent social dynamics than the rest of the regions of Pakistan. These social dynamics proved to be huge hurdles for the efficient implementation and flow of the project. Despite, the constraints, Ran’aa Foundation with the assistance of NIC Peshawar accomplished the said goal and concluded the project successfully.

NIC Peshawar acknowledged the complex set of challenges that inhibit Peshawar. In consideration of these societal hindrances, NIC Peshawar consistently assisted Ran’aa Foundation in developing methodologies that directly responded to the female vocational and digital discrepancies pertinent in this region. In addition to these discrepancies, the deprivation of deeper digital exposure due to lack of ownership and accessibility to technological equipment and mobility restrictions can be categorized as massive hindrances which cannot be overlooked, in achieving the vision of reducing digital literacy level and contributing to female empowerment.  Some major reform areas where NIC Peshawar rendered its assistance to Ran’aa Foundation included investment in girls’ vocational development, facilitating women’s entrepreneurship, supporting safe transport and learning space as well as conducive workshops and sessions conducted by the facility’s members, mentors as well as the pioneers of the incubated startups. NIC Peshawar, through such initiatives and collaborations reflects their stern stance regarding the revitalization and stimulation of technological entrepreneurship and advocacy for an inclusive startup ecosystem.

Through this project, more than 40 female-led businesses were launched successfully and were able to create a strong digital presence on various digital platforms. As a consequence of becoming technologically and digitally literate, the female beneficiaries were able to generate a steady income, increase their exposure to and expand their clientele. More than twenty businesses are currently active and financially stable. The remaining businesses are anticipated to join the list of success stories of this project soon. Rising technological and digital literacy can ensure an even greater number of female entrepreneurs evolving their struggling initiatives into profitable and appreciable businesses.

These women may not be the Donatella Versace of fashion but they have the potential and spirit to create greater visibility in the market. NIC Peshawar made sure these women can achieve the financial independence and stability they sought for themselves and their families for so long. We are humbled by the result of our continuous efforts and assistance.  We hope to continue our quest for empowering women financially and eliminating the economic gender gap currently prevalent in our region by undertaking more of such projects in the future.  We are resolute to address the discrepancies, ensure we meet the need and expectations of the people, not just the privileged but also the marginalized by enabling them to seize their goals and vision.