Tailoring: A Small-Business Skill for Afghan Women


The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) and Creating Hope International (CHI) would like to wish you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons.  As you celebrate with those you love, please take a moment to look at CHI’s yearly newsletter, which we’ve attached to this report. As you will see, 2012 has been a transformative year for AIL and CHI. After years of working tirelessly to provide education, training and healthcare to Afghans, we are beginning to see a real change. The minds of those AIL works with are being opened to the possibility of a peaceful Afghan society.

AIL is in the process of finalizing a 5 year funding plan, which will be put into place beginning in 2013. We are looking forward to sharing the details of this plan with you soon, and hope that you will find it in your heart to give generously to help us reach our goal. The people of Afghanistan are making great strides, but our work is not done yet. Instead of backing down, we need to push ahead and continue to give Afghans the tools they need to create a more peaceful country. We are hoping that we can count on you to help continue our work. 

The women are beginning to see that through education they can have a better life, and are insisting on educating their children. They are taking charge of their health, and we are seeing more and more women requesting workshops on pre-natal issues as well as reproductive health. AIL is encouraged to see so many Afghan women looking forward to a brighter future and is planning to be there to help the women lead the way to the Afghanistan of their dreams. 


Thank you for your support of AIL’s project. While the situation in Afghanistan continues to prove challenging, with your help AIL is finding ways to continue bringing high quality education to the women of Afghanistan. 

Forty-six sewing and tailoring courses are being taught to 868 students at nineteen centers. During one month, the sewing students at one of AIL’s centers were able to produce 60 women’s dresses, 15 skirts, 107 head coverings, 111 blouses, and various men’s clothing for a total of 873 different items. 

For many of the students, the road to literacy begins with sewing. AIL has found that while many families might not be comfortable with their female relatives studying subjects traditionally taught in schools for fear that they go against the family’s values, they are comfortable allowing the women and girls to take classes in sewing and tailoring. After the girls begin attending classes, the family is able to see that AIL is a trustworthy organization, one that respects Afghan culture while educating students.

My name is Zeba. My parents are very restrictive and thus I couldn’t go to school and get an education. At home I weave rugs with my sisters. I heard about the good work that AIL does, and told my parents of it. They allowed me to join a sewing class at the center. Soon after I joined a literacy class. Now I can sew, read and write. I am so thankful for my teachers who help Afghan women and girls, and for the Afghan Institute of Learning. 

In other cases, the sewing classes provide women with a way to improve their family’s economic situation. The women are able to sew clothing to sell as well as being able to alter clothing for others. This is a great way for women to help provide for their family.

One of AIL’s supervisors recently checked on one of AIL’s sewing classes and said the following: We are very happy with the sewing classes. The teaching has been very good, and now the students can sew very well. Many are able to sew their own clothes. During the past two months, there were two students who could not sew anything, but now they can sew many things. They have become good tailors, and are very thankful to teachers and for their sewing classes. All of the sewing students are very glad that AIL is offering these classes for women; they are very happy they have the chance to learn sewing and other subjects. 

Don’t forget!  The holidays are a great time to share your passion for AIL and the great work that they do! GlobalGiving offers gift certificates which can be used to donate to AIL’s projects. Also, beginning December 1st, the initial donation made by recurring donors will be matched 100% by GlobalGiving. There is only $25,000 available in matching funds, so help AIL take advantage of this opportunity early!

Thank you for your generous support of our project. Rather than give you just the numbers of women taking part in our sewing classes, we would like to share two stories of women whose lives have been transformed by our sewing program. The story of this young girl exemplifies the positive effect that the Afghan Institute of Learning’s programs are having on Afghan women.

Latifa began studying sewing in one of AIL’s centers a year ago. She finished the six month course, and decided to come back for more education, taking the sewing class again and also taking a literacy course.  Latifa says that because of AIL’s courses, “I can read and write, and I sew clothes professionally to earn money. I am thankful to AIL for giving me this opportunity.”

In another of our centers, a young woman named Jamila shared a similar story:

“I am so proud because now that I have learned to sew, I can support my family. I went to the bazaar and bought 20 meters of cloth and was able to make nine sets of clothing. I went back to the bazaar and was able to sell the clothing for a 100% profit. I have changed so much since last year. I am now able to work in my community. My sewing skills have also helped my family. I was able use some of my profits to purchase stationary for my sister to use at school, and she was so happy to have it.”

This is the story of a student at the Sar Asia Center in Herat:

I am 22 years old.  Seven years ago, I came to this Center and studied sewing.  I learned how to sew and the cutting of clothes.  Fortunately, I now have a daily income from sewing clothes.  I can earn 10 dollars per day and my family’s expenditures are 7 dollars every day.  I can save three dollars each day.  In one year I can save 1100 dollars.  This is how I am helping my family.  I continue to come to the Center to attend literacy and Arabic classes.  I am now in the fourth level of literacy.  When I started here, my family did not like the idea, but now they respect me and encourage me.  Recently, I enrolled my mother in literacy classes so that she may also learn.

These kinds of stories touch my heart and give me hope for all women in Afghanistan.  The idea that she is saving money for her future makes me smile and shows me that AIL is helping people lead better lives.  I’m including a picture that we recently received from a sewing class at an AIL Learning Center in Kabul.

Please remember that Wednesday, June 13th (beginning at 12:01 AM EST) is a Bonus Day through Global Giving.  Donations received that day will be provided a matching gift of 30, 40 or 50 percent. 

Since 1995, the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) has been helping Afghans lift themselves above the devastation of war by providing education, training, health care, and health education.  AIL’s approach is to interlink health and education programs, like building blocks that together form a whole structure.  While delivering these basic services AIL has also been able to promote critical thinking skills and model and teach human rights, women’s rights, peace, democracy, and leadership. With new skills and information, Afghans are becoming empowered and hopeful. Through your financial support, you have been a part of these seeds of systemic change.

 Through the natural progression that exists when people begin to think for themselves, AIL often receives requests from Afghans who want to find ways to work together to promote love, understanding, and forgiveness to their people in order to return to a peaceful way of life; the way of their country’s history.  Supported by Fetzer Institute,  AIL is responding to these requests by holding an International Conference on Love and Forgiveness this Spring that will be shared throughout the country and internationally via film.  This conference will focus on the study of Afghan poets and musicians, particularly the work of Mawlana (Rumi).  Participating in the conference will be poets, writers, Sufis and government representatives from all parts of Afghanistan and the world.

 Joining the Conference, in person, or via film or writings, are:

  • Poet Coleman Barks; known as the pre-eminent translator of Rumi, the great 13th century poet and teacher.  Mr. Barks’ writings and translations have filled 15 books that are more popular than other renderings of these ancient words.  They make Rumi’s raptures accessible to the world beyond their creation.
  • Stephen Olsson, President of CEM Productions, has produced and directed documentary films, television series and feature news reports throughout the world for US and European broadcasters.  He also produced and directed: Afghanistan: The Fight For A Way of Life, which was broadcast throughout the world and cited by The New York Times as one of the best documentary films of the year.
  • Divine Mother Audrey Kitagawa, a former attorney, practiced in Honolulu for twenty years, and became the spiritual leader of The Light of Awareness International Spiritual Family, a worldwide community based in Hawaii. Divine Mother Audrey is a prolific writer on matters of spirituality and multiculturalism and serves on many global, spiritual and UN advisory boards, including as Advisor to the World Federation of United Nations Associations.

 AIL invites you to join Afghans in thought and through your own study of music and poetry that brings us all closer to the peaceful world we endeavor to achieve.

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Project Leader

Sakena Yacoobi

Founder & CEO
Dearborn, Michigan United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Tailoring: A Small-Business Skill for Afghan Women