Novo Nordisk Foundation supports vulnerable Afghan women

Report
from Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees
Published on 09 Dec 2019 View Original

Project title: WOMEN (Women Owned Market Economy Network)
Project period: 12 months (June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020)
Total # of beneficiaries: 40 women (19 in tailoring and 21 in embroidery)
Total funding: 750,000 DKK

Goal: The female beneficiaries will be able to make a sustainable income from setting up their own tailoring and embroidery businesses. The project builds on existing tailoring skills of the participants and teaches new embroidery skills, in addition to entrepreneurial skills and advanced literacy and numeracy. Half of the women are recent graduates from DACAAR’s vocational skills training course funded by Danida’s ROI project. Towards the end of the project, DACAAR will organise the women into small production groups and set up a Women Resource Centre which will help to keep the local ethnic art and craft forms alive.

Women are disadvantaged in Afghanistan

The majority of the participants are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have fled their home due to the deteriorated security situation. IDPs tend to settle in the outskirts of the bigger cities because it is relatively secure and they are looking for financial opportunities. However, they too often end up settling in areas with very few basic services and very limited economic opportunities. “Earning an income gives women a voice. And this will result in more decision-making power,” says the Deputy Director and Head of Programme of DACAAR.

Reflections from the field visit from October 9th, 2019

Gosfand Dara is a village located one-hour east of Kabul. The houses are constructed from mud surrounded by semi-arid land with barely any tree coverage. Most people living in the village have been displaced from eastern provinces of Afghanistan and are Pashton. Due to the cultural restrictions, women have extremely limited opportunities to leave the house and are mostly illiterate. They are staying at home and looking after their children. This tradition is passed on to their daughters: young females should stay at home and help their mothers instead of going to school. Leaving their homes to study or to work counts as a symbol of shame for the entire family and can have detrimental consequences.

A good alternative for these females is working from home which allows them to make valuable use of their free time. The NOVO Foundation project paves the way for this new opportunity and will enhance the skills of the women who have already completed tailoring under the DANIDA-ROI project.

The program participants are learning embroidery and tailoring skills enabling them to use their creativity to produce dresses for women and children in different vibrant colours (see photos). Once enough dresses are made, they are going to sell those in the market. The use of their own creative skills brightens their days of monotony.

"I could not go to school once I was a teenager because the school was far away and the majority of students were boys. My family said that people are talking badly behind our backs and asking why this girl is leaving the house. So, my family stopped me to go to school. But here in the NOVO program all participants are female and my family has no problem with that, although some people are still saying bad things behind me." Shaysta said.

“Bringing these women together and preventing their isolation, as well as increasing cooperation among them, are indirect positive outcomes,” said Ms. Parwen Hashemy, the Designer who was hired by DACAAR for this project. "The women’s behaviours have changed over time. They are now helping each other and sometimes I don’t even notice that they solved their work problems on their own,” she described.

The colours for the dresses are chosen according to the local culture and what the potential customers in that area find appealing. Ms. Parwen Hashemy said: " before proposing my design to the students I ask them what they think about it and then we finalize the design."

18-year-old Zahida a first-time beneficiary learning embroidery says that after the death of her father she and her brother have the responsibility now to earn an income: "My mother cannot work outside of the house and therefore my brother and I have to work. I studied up to 3rd grade and after that my family didn't let me continue. In this program, I am participating in literacy classes which is very good. I am learning something."

Ms. Parwen Hashemy said she believes in the old saying that it is more important to teach students to fish and you have fed them for a lifetime. “I also want them to learn how to set prices for their work products because if they set a price themselves, they can understand the value of their works."

Contributions: Zohal Nasrat, Dagmar Ruehrig, Jan Kjaer