Decades of violence in Afghanistan have left millions of women and girls displaced or widowed. Common discriminatory practices, amplified by extremist groups, often make it dangerous for women to seek education, healthcare services, employment, or, in some cases, even to leave their homes.
Women like Zarghuna have not lost hope. With your help, the Women for Women International – Afghanistan team provides our yearlong training programs for women, as well as programs to engage men.
One of my friends told me about Women for Women International and how it provided training for women. When I joined, I found myself in a group of 25 women. That’s when I learned that I wasn’t alone in my suffering. There are other women, who have the same pain and the same hardships. To realize that was amazing. I went to the organization for a year until I graduated. After that I succeeded in finding a job in embroidery and handicraft. And I was always thinking about how I could build my own business. Eventually I decided to take a micro-loan of $500. From there I started selling my embroidered products and my business grew quickly. I am so proud to be able to tell you that I have $30,000 in the bank. And just a month ago, I was able to purchase machinery for $18,000 to improve my business. One day I know I will have a huge business in Afghanistan. I only wish to see peace in my country and expand my business more and more. For now, I am so happy that I am providing employment to 120 women, women who once suffered a lot. It’s not only women that I hire. I also have men as employees and helping us with the sales.
I am always talking with the women. I wanted to share all my experiences and I tell them to be strong, as I became strong. I explain to them how I transformed from victim to active citizen. “So you have it. This is a lesson learned for each of you. You have to take that step to move forward.” And as for my daughter—this year she is graduating from high school and I have a dream to see her in a university. On her graduation day from university, I will be relaxed.
Meet Azada - Afghanistan
Azada was 14 when her father asked her to marry a cousin of hers; hoping, as is common in some forms of Islam, that a relative would treat her better than a stranger. It wasn’t the case.
Azada had two daughters with her husband, and wondered how she’d ever be able to escape his abuse. Finally her father agreed she should divorce, and she lived with him in Pakistan, performing difficult and low-paying labor to survive, until the Taliban fell in 2001.
Upon her return to Kabul with hter family, Azada enrolled in Women for Women International’s sponsorship program and learned to cut semi-precious stones for jewelry. Now she teaches other women the skills she acquired with Women for Women International. Her most prized possession is her certificate of employment. “I never thought that I would have the opportunity to support myself without a man,” Azada says. “Now... I am doing it!”
Meet WfWI Afghanistan participant Noor. Noor, a mother of 9 (4 girls, 5 boys), Noor doesn't let the lessons she learns in WfWI's 12 month, holistic program stop with her. She passes them on to her children. Read on to learn more about what she learned and how she is teaching it to her children, especially her daughters.
Afghan women are determined for their daughters to have more and better choices in their lives. Noor was just 12 years old when she was married to a man 28 years her senior. Today, at age 35, she has nine children. Four are daughters, and Noor is determined they will have a different kind of future. Through Women for Women International’s vocational training program Noor has learned skills that will help her earn extra income, which she plans to use to pay for her daughters’ school expenses.
Women receive letters and financial support from their sponsors. They meet in groups of 20 for rights awareness training facilitated by local women. They learn to read and write. Some are trained as health and traditional birth attendants. Women entrepreneurs can learn vocational and business skills and have access to small loans which they pay back as their projects grow.
Like Noor, most women begin the program illiterate and with no way to earn money. These obstacles, along with traditional views about gender roles, keep women from realizing their full potential.
In the evenings when the housework is complete, Noor shares with her daughters what she has learned through her trainings – not just work skills and literacy, but also about the rights of women as documented in their nation’s constitution.
Though progress is slow and difficult, Noor is dreaming, “I wish for my daughter to finish school and then marry a man she loves.” Some women have already made life-changing decisions. Raissa negotiated with her daughter’s future in-laws that they will allow her to complete her education. “I think my daughter will have a happy life in the future.”
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