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Nonprofit, Marshall Direct Fund supports primary and vocational education in Pakistan with the mission to improve relations between the West and Muslim World. This fall, we are launching a vocational training program for 200 women in Pakistan Administered Kashmir to enable young women access to information and skills to foster entrepreneurship and business acumen. The women will also be given an opportunity to learn a specific trade, specifically how to embellish flip-flops, which will then be sold to middle to high-end markets in the United States, Pakistan and overseas. Others will be grouped according to their interest and skill level, and given the forum to establish their own enterprise in other areas. By providing trainees with skills, as well as connecting them with fellow entrepreneurs, the hope is that women will feel empowered and be able to generate more family income that will ease the challenges of living in poverty. Based on market response from the pilot project, MDF will expand the flip-flop enterprise to a wider arena of retailers and include more women in generating them as interest warrants.

The base curriculum used to train the young women is from Foundation for Social Change (FSC), a nonprofit social enterprise working with corporations and NGOs around the world to create programs that turn social opportunity into business opportunity.  FSC brings together public and private sector partners to show how doing good is good for business.  The eLife curriculum (developed in partnership with Stern Business School at NYU) will provide women in our vocational training centers in Pakistan financial skills and education in money management, budget analysis, banking and credit, vocational training, and entrepreneurship education (including how to launch and run a business, develop a business plan, and remain competitive with market awareness about demand, prices, and competition). The training first covers problem solving and decision making, critical thinking, coping with stress and life changes, expanding beyond the comfort zone, building self-confidence, and interpersonal communication. The women who participate in this program have limited business management experience. However, many of them have also never been given the opportunity to examine management in their own lives. This training program establishes a strong personal foundation for participants, then builds on that foundation with specific business skills.

With the women’s approval, a percentage of the proceeds from businesses undertaken by graduates of the business skills training program will go toward funding MDF’s existing schools for Pakistani youth. This model will address the underlying issues of poverty in Pakistan through multiple avenues, creating a sustainable and integrated development model.

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