Afghanistan

Beauticians and embroiderers - Afghan women learn new skills

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By Homayon Khoram

Three hundred women are able to feed their families and hundreds more will be able to read and write thanks to a food for training project from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

For three years WFP has been supporting the Afghan Women Rehabilitation and Skills Building Association (AWRSA) in Takhar, a province in the north east of Afghanistan with a population of nearly 900,000.

More than 5,000 women are now self-sufficient following the support from WFP and the skills building centre, a non-governmental organization operating in Takhar.

More than 1,500 students study at 69 literacy courses supported by WFP in six districts of Takhar province including the Worsaj district, one of the remotest districts of the province.

"550 graduates of literacy courses have enrolled in schools," said Fazila, an ex-teacher and now the head of AWRSA.

82 women and girls have graduated from beauty parlour courses and some of them now earn a living in their own beauty parlours in Taluqan, the provincial capital of Takhar province.

45 women are employed in bakeries run by the women themselves in Taluqan.

Women learn new skills that include tailoring, embroidery, carpet weaving and enrol in literacy classes as part of WFP's Food-For-Training project.

Students receive wheat, oil, lentils and salt when they enrol in these courses.

For many women and children the food from WFP is the only way of feeding their families.

"My husband is jobless and the prices have gone up unimaginably so what I receive here is a great help for my family," says Abeda, a young mother of three children who attends a literacy class.

A widower with six children attends the carpet-weaving course. "There are no employment opportunities for women here in Taluqan. I thank WFP from my heart for their help," said the widower.

Shamila has been teaching embroidery in the centre for three years. "My husband is a drug addict and this centre is the only way I can feed my three children," says Shamila.

72 women now run their own small scale businesses with loans provided by the centre.

Low food production in the province, the rising population in Takhar and Badakhshan, coupled with rising food prices makes food unaffordable for the population of these provinces, 80 per cent of who rely on agriculture for a living.

WFP distributes family rations of food to 5,000 adult students who attend literacy courses and to nearly 3,000 people who attend vocational training courses in the provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan.

The food acts as an incentive and encourages attendance at the part-time training and literacy courses.

The food rations the trainees receive meet 44 per cent of their daily energy requirement.

Nearly 25,000 people will receive food rations as part of WFP's Food For Training project in 2008.