Yousuf Gill worked as a Catholic Parish Priest in the vast Baluchistan Parish during the 1990s. He became increasingly aware that the women of this region received almost no education. This meant that the human potential of 50% of the population was unrealised – in Yousuf’s eyes a tragic waste of talent.
Following a Master’s course in Development Studies in Dublin, Yousuf returned to this part of Pakistan and applied his energies and skills to providing basic education and skills training for girls and women of all the regions cultures and faiths.
In June 2004 Yousuf Gill returned to the UK to raise the profile of the project amongst academic staff at the University of Wales, Bangor; also to individuals within the Church in Wales and elsewhere in north Wales. He has also introduced the embroidered products to a fair trade shop in Conwy, and to the Pakistani business community in Birmingham, Derbyshire and West Yorkshire.
During the summer of 2005, three new Education Centres were opened in dalit Hindu communities near Yazman in the Cholistan desert region of Punjab Province. Also, the Centres which had closed in Zhob were subsequently re-opened for a short time, but sadly closing again in 2007 due to security concerns. Demand for education and training is increasing significantly, and expansion is constrained only by the limited funding so far available from Umeed Partnership (UK).
Since 2006, educational and training activities have expanded. Two Umeed multi-faith co-educational schools have been opened in southern Punjab, based on the city of Yazman. Recognising the lack of educational and vocational training opportunities for boys in very poor parts of Pakistan, carpentry & woodwork centres have been opened in slum areas of Lahore, Quetta and Bahawalpur to provide opportunities for street children (almost always boys). Much of the funding to improve the infrastructure of the schools has been provided by the Rotary International Matching Grants initiative, in partnership with Bangor and Prestatyn Rotary Clubs in north Wales.
It was never Yousuf’s intention to change the dynamics of society in the tribal areas (and indeed it would have been dangerous to do so) but simply to offer opportunities to women and children through education. In this respect he is realising his vision.