The founder of the BLISS project, working with Barakat students in Pakistan, was recently accepted as a 2011 Unreasonable Institute Fellow! Saba Gul will join 25 other social entrepreneurs from around the world in a prestigious 6-week program to receive skills training, mentorship, access to seed capital and valuable networking opportunities. Congratulations, Saba!
The Unreasonable Institute is named after the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw’s famous saying, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in adapting the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
To attend the Unreasonable Institute, Saba had to be among the first 25 social entrepreneurs to raise $8,000, a test of their capacity to mobilize a large number of supporters in a short period of time. BLISS was one of the first competitors to meet this goal, with donations from 212 sponsors.
“We believe incubation by the Unreasonable Institute will be crucial in helping BLISS move to the next level, in becoming scalable and sustainable as well as securing valuable financial resources for its operations,” says Saba. “It’s a huge opportunity for us!”
BLISS, which stands for Business and Life Skills School, incorporates traditional Turkmen embroidery skills into the schedule at Barakat’s evening school for girls in Pakistan. The girls are paid for their work, allowing them to attend school while also earning money.
Saba will soon move to Pakistan to work on BLISS full time. Living in Pakistan will help her build stronger bonds with the girls and their families, as well as meet with retailers who will sell the finishedhandbags. Saba is currently working on a possible partnership with a large apparel and accessories line in Pakistan.
Girls who participate in BLISS are thrilled to have this opportunity. “They thank me for starting it,” says Saba. “They say they love the time they get to sit together, socialize and embroider together, and obviously it helps to have a small amount to be able to spend.”
In recognition of her work, Saba was invited to a US State Department dinner hosted by Hillary Clinton, which honored young Muslim leaders. According to Saba, “To be hand-picked as one of these 70 change-makers to represent my work with BLISS was a true honor. But to be mentioned in Hillary Clinton’s speech as one of the young people ‘who had already accomplished extraordinary things’ by starting ‘a program to keep Pakistani girls from dropping out of school’ was exhilarating!”
Saba hopes to eventually have the community take ownership of the project, make it financially self-sufficient, and expand the program to help more girls enroll in school. The partnership between Barakatand BLISS gives girls an incentive to attend school by teaching them practical, income-boosting skills. Stay up to date on Saba’s remarkable progress through the BLISS website.