Stitching A Future For Afghan Women
Giving Afghan women the chance to learn marketable skills is one way to help Afghanistan on the road to peace and stability, as well as food security.
Lack of job opportunities is a serious problem in Afghanistan. Unemployment is considered one of the main causes of instability in the country – but it’s hard to find jobs when only 17 percent of the population over 25 has had any kind of formal education at all.
The situation is especially difficult for women, who have even fewer educational opportunities than men. There are many families who have lost their male relatives during various conflicts over the years, so it falls to the women – often illiterate and without any formal education at all – to scrape a living for themselves and their children.
Food And Sewing Machines
Food for Training (FFT) is one of WFP’s main initiatives to encourage vulnerable adults to attend classes where they learn how to read and write, or skills which can be applied to earn income. In Afghanistan, most of these projects are targeted at women.
Participants receive food rations as an incentive to attend classes such as accessory-making, embroidery, carpentry, bee-keeping and tailoring. The courses usually last six to seven months, and each month the students receive a family food ration consisting of wheat, oil, beans or split peas, and salt.
A recently-started class in the east of Kabul City, which WFP implements through the NGO Rehabilitee Organization for Afghan War Victims (ROAWV), teaches women dress-making. Thanks to a donation from the Government of Slovenia, WFP is able to provide the 100 women participating in the class not only with food, but also with a sewing machine and other tools that they can keep at the end of the class.
One of the sewing students is Maymona, a 38-year-old widow. She has five children and her eldest son is already helping to support the family. The 12-year-old sells bulani, an Afghan dish made of bread and vegetables, after school.
“Even during the very harsh and cold winter my son is out selling bulani on the street,” Maymona sadly describes her son’s suffering.
To feed her family and make a little money, Maymona cleans houses and does laundry. “It’s not a good job for me,” she explains. “It’s not seen as respectable in Afghanistan for a woman to go into strangers’ houses. I hope that by learning tailoring I can find other work without having to go into people’s houses.”
Drug Addict Husband
Farida is 38 years old. Her husband is a drug addict; he doesn’t have a job, so it’s up to her to support the family of eight. Like Maymona, Farida currently scrapes a living by doing laundry and cleaning work.
“I hope that if I learn to sew well I can make good money making dresses for people,” Farida explains. She adds, “The food I receive here is a big support for my family, as I have no any other way to feed them.”
By learning to make clothes Maymona hopes to supplement her household income.
Photo: WFP/Assadullah Azhari