BY DR. RAFAT JAN
for the Economic
Empowerment of Women
Young women have very few opportunities in developing nations
to access quality education. At the end of my PhD, I had
the opportunity to conduct a needs assessment for women across
Many young women cried that they have almost no chance to
develop strong careers because of their weak academic background.
Consequently, they are crippled economically and have very
few opportunities to be independent.
Upon completion of my PhD, I decided to invest time into
foundational learning for women. I discussed the results
of my needs assessment with a Canadian engineer, a friend
I met during my studies at McGill University. After a two-day
intensive meeting in Chicago, we developed the framework
for a program mandated to assist women through foundational
My friend left Chicago with a promise to develop a team to
assist in the project.
To my surprise, she mobilized a team of 30 individuals across
Canada, mostly with engineering backgrounds, who enthusiastically
developed the Women’s Mathematics Enhancement Program,
the Women’s Physics Enhancement Program, and a leadership
The team of volunteers joined undergraduate, master’s
and PhD students with working professionals. I was amazed
at the way they worked electronically, some creating math
and physics modules, while others served as experts for reviewing
Yet another volunteer developed a website that facilitated
communication and information exchange amongst Canadian team
I was very touched. I have not seen or met all of these people
but I have never come across such an enthusiastic group.
These individuals banded together to work for the enhancement
of women unknown and invisible to them, and to further the
knowledge and skills of these women in math and physics.
Summer of Success
As part of the Foundational Learning for the Economic Empowerment
of Women Program, much work took place this summer. The
Women’s Mathematics Enhancement Program, one module
from the Women’s Physics Enhancement Program and
the locally developed Women’s English Enhancement
Program were piloted in four areas across Pakistan – Punjab,
Sindh, Upper Chitral and Lower Chitral – with almost
Although most of our Canadian partners will not see first-hand
the impact of their work, they are indeed creating long-term
effects and changing lives. For this, I salute them.
The Pakistan Project
Above, student participants in the program in Lower Chitral;
below, Calgary members of the curriculum development team
of the Women’s Mathematics Enhancement Program and
the Women’s Physics Enhancement. Afshan Kaba, The PEGG’s
U of C geoscience columnist, is on the curriculum team and
over the summer taught in Pakistan.