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Ayesha Khan

Against all odds: A woman at a Pakistani gas field

Reading time: 3 min

Making a career in Pakistan as a woman is anything but easy. The labor market does not offer many opportunities. But there are also women who don’t pay much attention to conventions and look for a traditional ‘male’ job. Ayesha Khan is one of them. She just completed an traineeship at an OMV gas field – the first woman to do so.

“It was an amazing experience,” says Ayesha Khan, only days after returning to her regular job at the OMV office in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Prior to this she was in the field all day long, had her eye on the gas production facility, and also had to help out whenever someone needed it. It was definitely an experience that she wouldn’t have wanted to miss. “When I was offered the chance to go out in the field, I accepted immediately, because I wanted to finally apply everything I learned at university.”

A confident woman

Before her traineeship at the OMV field in Sawan in southern Pakistan, 24-year-old Ayesha Khan had finished a degree at an engineering university located 200 kilometers away from Islamabad city, where she learned to challenge assigned gender roles – not a common occurrence in her country.

Ayesha Khan Trainee OMV Pakistan
I always wanted to do something new, to have a career and not just be limited to the household or to a job that our culture considers appropriate for a woman.
Ayesha Shafi, Risk Engineer at OMV

Pakistan is in 141st place out of 142 countries in the gender equality ranking. Even today, only about 40 percent of women can read and write (Source: Global Gender Gap Report 2014), and according to UN figures (Source: Human Development Report 2014), only about a quarter of all women are integrated in the labor market – much less in technical jobs. This is a sufficient reason for OMV to take countermeasures with the Resourcefulness program ‘Women’s Empowerment Pakistan’. This sustainability program consists of a range of initiatives aimed at granting Pakistani women access to higher education and thereby helping them start their careers.

“Most women encounter resistance from their families when they challenge traditional roles. That’s why it takes a lot of courage and determination to follow your dreams when they contradict the current social norms in our country.” But even Ayesha, who comes from a considerably more liberal background than many other Pakistani women, had to do a lot of convincing. “Initially my family was concerned about me taking a job that was in their opinion so untypical for women. The Sawan field is considered a ‘no-woman’s land’, because only men work there.” But she was able to convince her family that the internship was important for her career.

The situation was new for her male colleagues at the gas field as well: “They had to get used to it at first,” says Ayesha Khan. “At the beginning there were definitely difficulties with communication.” There were also modifications to the infrastructure at the field, which had to be adapted to also accommodate women.

She describes her time in the field in this short voice clip:
Ayeshas time at the Sawan gas field (M4A, 311,7 KB)

A role model for young women

As far as Ayesha is concerned, that shouldn’t be a problem in the future, because so many more women will find their way to the field. “I hope that a lot of girls will follow my example. That they value their education. And won’t let people limit their job choices later on.” The 24-year-old sees herself as a role model for a new generation of confident Pakistani women. During her stay at the Sawan Camp she visited a girls’ school to tell the girls about her life.

She talks about her visit here:
Ayeshas visit to the girls school (MP3, 596,7 KB)

View the slideshow about Ayeshas traineeship in the Sawan gas field in Pakistan:

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24-year-old Ayesha Khan at her job at the Sawan gas field
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Ayesha talking to one of her colleagues in the field
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On a tour through the Sawan gas field.
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At her job in the field Ayesha can apply what she learned in her studies.
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The work at the gas field is physically demanding every day.
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Ayesha in her accommodations at the field camp.
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Ayesha encourages girls to learn while visiting schools in the Sawan region.

Learn more about OMV training and education programs in Pakistan in the video below.

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