KUNDUZ -- A technical and vocational training centre in Kunduz Province is providing learning and jobs to hundreds of women, enabling local women to become self-reliant.
The centre, opened in 2009, provides training in 12 different skills and aims to reduce unemployment among women, according to Mohammad Zahir Azimi, director of the Labour and Social Affairs Directorate in the province.
Each course lasts about six months and trains about 300 women.
"Women in this centre learn skills and crafts such as carpet and rug weaving, sewing, embroidery, curtain making, etc., so that they can help their families," Azimi told Salaam Times.
The centre provides graduates with tools and equipment to aid them in their chosen profession at the end of each course, he said.
"We provide livelihoods, transportation and tools for women who learn various skills here," he said.
"This project has been launched for the purpose of [enabling] poor women's self-sufficiency, and in the future we will also have the ability to market women's products and handicrafts," Azimi said.
"With the help of the government and NGOs, we are trying to provide women with more jobs," he said.
Raising women's standard of living
Women who have participated in the training programme say they are optimistic about their future earning potential.
"We learned the art of carpet and rug weaving, and now we can weave carpets and rugs at home and sell them at the market," said Gulalai Mohebi, a 23-year-old graduate of the centre.
The training helps women to become self-sufficient and improves their standard of living, she said.
"Hundreds of other women like me have learned various skills and professions, and they can now earn a modest income for their families and children," Mohebi told Salaam Times.
The project is a crucial step in women's empowerment and development, said Nasiba Holkar, chief of the Women's Affairs Directorate in Kunduz.
Over the past year, the directorate has provided some 150 female job-seekers with work, she told Salaam Times.
Women who have found jobs through government agencies and charitable organisations are now earning 3,000 to 10,000 AFN ($40 to $133) per month, which is enough to meet their needs, she said.
Holkar said her goal at the directorate is to help women who battle poverty and financial difficulties.
"There are some women who work in fields like animal husbandry, including poultry and fish farming and beekeeping, or making handicrafts to help their families," she said.
"Through learning a career and vocational skill, women can play a part in their families' financial well-being and build a better future for themselves and their children," Holkar said.
"You can become self-sufficient and earn a good living working with your own hands," she added while calling on other women's to engage.
Breaking down social barriers
More women are working outside their homes, escaping an obstacle --the expectation that they stay at home -- that traditionally has impeded women's self-sufficiency, said Habiba Gulastani, a women's rights activist in Kunduz.
"The level of families' awareness has risen from 2011 onward, and now women can work shoulder to shoulder with men in government and corporate offices," she told Salaam Times without explaining the significance of 2011.
"Currently, women comprise 30% of the employees of various government agencies, especially in such departments and sectors as education, public health, security command and other government departments," she said.
For some women, working outside the home is a necessity.
"My husband was martyred in 2017 when Kunduz briefly fell to the Taliban, and I was left alone and helpless with my four children," said Mahbuba Hamidi, 40, a resident of Seh Darak in Kunduz city.
"May God destroy the houses of Taliban militants," she told Salaam Times. "If they did not fight, and if they did not cause Kunduz to fall, my life wouldn't be ruined."
"They destroyed the lives of thousands of other mothers like me, who mourn the deaths of their husbands and children," she said.
The Afghan government has hired Hamidi to work in a sewing and dressmaking project, which earns her a monthly salary of 6,000 AFN ($80).
"In such sectors as public health, security, education, etc., the presence of women is seriously needed," said Mawlawi Abdulbari, a religious scholar from Kunduz. "For instance, at the security command headquarters and security agencies, only female agents can search other women."
"Women can work freely outside their houses, provided that they wear proper hijabs," he told Salaam Times, referring to Islamic teachings on the subject.