Tailoring: A Small-Business Skill for Afghan Women

by Afghan Institute of Learning
Sewing Students
Sewing Students

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for your support of the Afghan Institute of Learning’s sewing and tailoring programs! Each year, thousands of Afghan women and girls come to AIL’s Learning Center to take classes in tailoring and sewing, enabling them to earn an income and support their families.

Hasina is one such girl. Hasina has two younger sisters. Her father was a farmer, working on the farms of others to earn an income for his family, but then he became sick and is no longer able to work. Hasina was searching for a job when a friend told her about the AIL Learning Center near her village. She was immediately interested and registered for sewing and literacy classes at the Center. Hasina’s teachers report that she was one of the hardest working students in the class and graduated from the sewing class in nine months.

Today, Hasina is a professional tailor, and is able to earn an income that supports her family. She says, “I believe that all of my achievements are because of AIL who established this center in a remote area. I owe my life to them. They really changed my life and the life of my family. I now encourage other women to get educated as well.”

Each year, thousands of women and girls just like Hasina come to AIL Learning Centers to learn to sew. In Afghanistan, buying clothing off the rack is too expensive for most people to afford. It is common for people to either sew their own clothing, or if they are unable to sew, to hire someone to do it for them. The ability to sew is a highly valued skill in Afghan society, one that gives the women a steady income while also saving them the money they would have spent on clothing for their own families.

Thank you for understanding the value of this program, and for choosing to support it! 

AIL Sewing Students
AIL Sewing Students

Dear Friends,

Thank you for supporting the Afghan Institute of Learning’s (AIL) Tailoring Program! Each year AIL trains thousands of women in classes where the women learn how to set, create patterns and sew and even receive advice on how to begin their own small businesses. Many women come to the center for other reasons and then decide to sign up for the sewing classes once they learn about them.

Our staff recently spoke with a 24 year-old woman named Zahra who did just that. Zahra came to the center to enroll her children in classes at the center and saw that there were many women her age taking classes. She spoke with the women who told her that the center offered great classes for women. Her husband was against the idea at first, but she enrolled anyway. They had many disagreements about her taking classes, but Zahra’s husband was soon convinced that the classes were a good idea after the young women learned to sew and was able to start a small businesses sewing clothing for other families.

Zahra said “I am now so happy that I have a skill. My husband is very happy as well. He has seen that I have learned this skill in a sound, safe and good educational environment. The class has been helpful in other ways too. I have made friends, and learned so much about how to keep my children healthy. I am so thankful to AIL for offering me the opportunity to support myself and my family and changing my life for the better.”

Thank you again for supporting women like Zahra who are taking sewing and tailoring classes at AIL’s Learning Centers. The classes give the women an opportunity to learn a skill which helps them to earn an income for their family. Thank you for supporting this important work. We have attached our year end newsletter to this report and hope you will take a few minutes to read it. 

Women in an AIL Sewing Course
Women in an AIL Sewing Course

The Afghan Institute of Learning’s sewing and tailoring classes offer Afghan women a chance to learn a valuable skill and open small businesses which help to support their families. The courses teach women the basics of sewing, as well as pattern making, tailoring, and how to operate their own sewing and tailoring businesses. Many women begin to sell clothing before they graduate from the course, allowing them to earn enough money to purchase their own sewing machine.

Recently we’ve been hearing stories of groups of women who work together to start larger businesses. From Herat Province, we recently learned of three graduated students who started worked together to start a business. Working together allows the women to each work part time, rather than full time, leaving them able to care for their families. They began by taking custom orders from people in their area, and recently have opened a store. After putting a very nice billboard on their store, they began getting a large number of customers in a short time. One woman, named Fariba, said “I never imagined having my own business before I came to AIL. My life has been changed completely here. I am so excited to have my own business, and I am planning to become a teacher at this center so that I can teach other women to sew. 

For most Afghans, the only way to purchase clothing is by having someone sew it for you. Because of this cultural norm, teaching these women to sew will give them an income that will be sustainable for the foreseeable future.  Thank you for believing in and supporting our project!

Stills from the Music Video
Stills from the Music Video

Let’s put our hands together, let’s get together.

Our hands hold our votes and our votes hold our future.


My fellow citizen It’s my vote, it’s your vote

It’s a privilege for enduring peace

My dear fellow citizen, with our vote leadership is in our hands.

             On April 5th, an historic election was held in Afghanistan. Over 7 million voters participated, and the elections were generally a peaceful affair. We at AIL hosted election workshops leading up to the vote, and asked the managers of our Learning Centers to educate students at the centers about why the vote was important, what steps they needed to take in order to vote, how to research and select candidates, and how to vote.

            The effort to encourage Afghans to vote was not limited to our workshops and Learning Centers however. At a private school owned by Dr. Sakena Yacoobi (our CEO) the Arts and Culture Teacher, Mehrjui, set a poem she had written about the election to music. The song encourages all Afghans to become aware of their responsibilities, to select a good candidate for President and to vote. The PSYPS Arts and Culture students sang this song at a celebration on International Women’s Day as well as at our election workshops. The song was incredibly well received, moving many in the audience.

            The students, staff, and administration at the school quickly realized how powerful their song was, so with the help of the AIL Academic Advisor and the AIL video production team, they set about recording their song so that it could be shared with a wider audience. They had no idea how popular the song was about to become.

            The song quickly went viral, being aired on Afghanistan’s National TV station, as well as on eleven other stations. The song has been played many times over and candidates running for president even asked if they could buy the song to use in their campaign. The PSYPS students and staff declined to sell the song, deciding the purpose of the song was to encourage all Afghans to participate in the elections, not to support just one candidate.

             As Afghanistan moves closer to a runoff election this summer, the song continues to be played on the radio and the video over the airwaves. In short, the song continues to encourage Afghans to participate in the upcoming elections and to make sure their voices are heard.

             We encourage you to take a moment to view the video made by the students, to read the lyrics below and to see the hope in these young people’s faces. After watching, we hope that you will stand with the youth of Afghanistan, and join us as we work with them to create a peaceful future for their nation. 

(Chorus Song)

Let’s put our hands together, let’s get together.

Our hands hold our votes and our votes hold our future.


With one vote, we can be our sultan, our voice

For a better choice for a better leader


My fellow citizen It’s my vote, it’s your vote

It’s a privilege for enduring peace

My dear fellow citizen, with our vote leadership is in our hand


My fellow citizen, stride, my fellow citizen!

With the name of God, we speak from the power of our thoughts

From our decision, unity, humanity and right

No longer speak of suicide bombing, explosion, but of creativity and pride

Don’t speak of the hills under the thorn

Speak of the friendship of verdant soil and the rose garden

Speak of spring, spring and spring



Let’s hope that this spring Afghanistan will turn into a magnificent garden. A garden in which the smell of every rose invites the world for a spectacle.

Let’s hope for a different spring, for a different year and for a different Afghanistan

Don’t forget my fellow citizen, our rendezvous is in front of ballot boxes on April 5, 2014


(Chorus Song)

Our choice is the remedy

Our choice is for the day of rendezvous

Who we want will be crowned sultan


My fellow citizen, stride, my fellow citizen!


Attend the opportunity with passion and turn the enemies into wretches

This colored finger is the guiding path and this fist is the hummer for the oppressor


My fellow citizen, stride, my fellow citizen!


Tailoring Student
Tailoring Student

Hi everyone! AIL is off to a great start this New Year, with thousands of new students enrolling in the learning centers and participating in AIL workshops and seminars. Your donations made it possible for 944 total women to be enrolled in tailoring classes in January. These are women who are really enthusiastic about learning a new skill to help them financially support their families. 

In December, one of AIL’s centers saw 22 women graduate from AIL’s tailoring courses. Many of them started their own businesses and are becoming more and more independent and have become able to provide for their families. These women will hire other women in their community, boosting not only the local economy but also helping to provide financial support for other women and their families.

AIL offers training opportunities for women who are professional tailors (most of whom were trained by AIL) to become teachers for tailoring classes offered in the Learning Centers. One of AIL’s newest tailoring teachers had this to say:

I am a tailor. I am very satisfied from my profession because it brings income to me and I can help others learn this profession. I want to help women become tailors because it has helped me.”

Again, we’d like to thank you so much for your support of our Tailoring program. This program would not be possible without donors like you. We hope that you find this partnership worthwhile, so many women are bettering their lives by taking these classes and learning how to become self-reliant. Thank you!!

Tailoring Student
Tailoring Student

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Organization Information

Afghan Institute of Learning

Location: Dearborn, Michigan - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.afghaninstituteoflearning.org
Project Leader:
Sakena Yacoobi
Dearborn, Michigan United States

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