Women graduates gain skills at Afghan construction site

Internships help launch engineering careers

“One of the most important benefits of this program for me is to be treated as an equal, not only by my mentor, but by all the other colleagues.”

February 2017—A 200-bed women’s dormitory is being constructed at the University of Afghanistan to provide a safe home to women studying in Kabul. But there’s more to the story of how the country’s women are benefiting from the project.

The construction is funded by USAID through its women’s empowerment program, Promote. As part of this $3.9 million design and construction project, implementing partners Perez, APC and Technologists Inc. created a six-month internship initiative that gives female participants the requisite skills and experience they need to launch successful careers in nontraditional occupations such as architecture, engineering and business administration.

Bibi Khairulnesah, who recently earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Polytechnical University of Kabul, is one of three young graduates participating in the pilot internship program.

“One of the most important benefits of this program for me is to be treated as an equal, not only by my mentor, but by all the other colleagues. This gives me the confidence to know that I can be successful in this field,” she said.

“We work right at the project site with all the other engineers,” said Fatima Husna Rassuli, a civil engineering graduate of Kabul University. “We get to see how theories from the classroom are applied in a real-world setting.”

Each of the three interns in the first class was selected through a competitive application process based on academic achievement, career goals, and leadership potential. The interns are assigned to a senior mentor who supervises their work and provides regular feedback.

In the first months of the program, the interns received an overview of the design and construction process, and studied architectural, structural and electrical details of the dormitory. Using Auto CAD design software, they completed and analyzed structural drawings. They also received on-site safety training and an orientation to industry-standard construction materials, machinery and techniques.

Following completion of the first class, Perez, APC and Technologists Inc. will select additional interns for subsequent classes that will run concurrently with the construction of the dormitory, scheduled for completion in 2017.

USAID’s Promote program, which runs from 2015 to 2020, is designed to empower women through equal employment opportunities that contribute to Afghanistan’s economic growth.