Women's Rights

UNDP offers lifeline to thousands of female tailors in western Afghanistan

By Muhammad Qasem

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched an aid programme for the economic empowerment of women in the western region. Under the programme, the UNDP has provided cash assistance and fabric to women who run informal tailoring businesses and those who do not have a male family breadwinner. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched a programme for the economic empowerment of women in Afghanistan's western region.

Under the programme, the UNDP has provided cash assistance and fabric to women who run informal tailoring businesses and those who do not have a male breadwinner in the family.

The programme has already distributed more than 30 tonnes of fabric to these women to enable them to make clothes to sell in markets.

Each woman participating in the programme also received $120 cash assistance to expand her business.

A woman sews clothes May 25 in Herat city as a part of a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aid programme. [Omar/Salaam Times]

A woman sews clothes May 25 in Herat city as a part of a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aid programme. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Women browse through garments and fabrics displayed for sale in a stall at a women's handicraft market in Herat on June 10. [Mohsen Karimi/AFP]

Women browse through garments and fabrics displayed for sale in a stall at a women's handicraft market in Herat on June 10. [Mohsen Karimi/AFP]

The programme, which launched April 11, has so far assisted more than 7,000 women in Herat and almost 5,000 in Farah, Badghis and Ghor provinces.

Its end date was not reported.

The assistance has rescued thousands of families from poverty, said Nargis Hashemi, director of the Herat Women's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"Since the worsening of the economic crisis in the country over the last year, many women have lost their jobs and are facing serious economic problems," she said. "This will help them resume their businesses."

"We urge the international community, especially the UN, to continue its assistance to Afghan women and girls," she said. "The economic problems of households will be alleviated if international assistance to women is continued."

Jobs for women

Despite restrictions, many women have continued to work outside their homes to support their families.

Bas Gul Ahmadi is in charge of a tailoring shop in Herat city that employs 70 women.

The UNDP's cash and fabric assistance enabled her to increase the number of her employees from 30 to 70 women, she said.

"We used the cash to purchase sewing machines and other necessary materials and distributed the fabric to women to prepare clothes," she said.

The women working in her shop include heads of households, university and school students, and housewives, according to Ahmadi.

"Most of these women and girls are the breadwinners of their families and are in need of the UN's assistance," she added.

Because of the economic crisis and increased hunger, women have to work outside their homes, said Rahila Haqdost, director of another tailoring shop in Herat city.

"Twenty-five women work in my shop, and all of them have received the UNDP's assistance, which has helped to improve their economic situation," she said.

"Many women work hard outside their homes," she said. "They desperately need assistance from NGOs and the international community. We call on the international community to support Afghan women in these difficult times."

With the support from NGOs and donor countries, Afghan women can play a critical role in the economy and save their families from poverty, said Haqdost.

Supporting households

The UNDP's assistance has transformed the economic situation of thousands of Afghan women and their families, alleviating the challenges of poverty and hunger.

Yagana Safari, who is studying economics at a private university in Herat city, said she now can contribute to her family's expenses working as a tailor.

"The assistance we received created jobs through which I can now help my family," she said. "I am very delighted to be able to help my parents in these difficult circumstances."

"In addition to covering household expenditures, my income from tailoring also covers my education expenses," Safari said. "It is very helpful to be working and having an income when the economy is so bad."

Zahra Mirzayi, a high school senior in Herat city, started taking tailoring classes after the closure of girls' schools.

After seven months of classes, she can now sew various kinds of women's and men's clothes.

Of Mirzayi's 10-member family, only her father works, she said, adding that she decided to work and help her father instead of sitting at home.

"The assistance from the NGOs is very effective," she said. "They gave us a lot of fabric that I used to prepare clothes and sell them in the market."

Nasima Sharifi, a high school junior in Herat city, also said she turned to the tailoring classes to escape being jobless and trapped at home.

"I started tailoring with the assistance I received [from the UNDP], and now my weekly income is more than 3,000 AFN [$34]," Sharifi said. "This income has helped me solve my family's economic problems."

"Despite being deprived of going to school, I am happy to be able to work and address my family's economic challenges," she added.

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in my opinion as a tailor, she must be supported.


In my opinion, many of the small skills which are funded and trained by the donor organizations in the country are without a feasibility study of the market of the country. What should people do with clothes when they don’t have food to eat? Why don’t these organizations spend the money they get from donor countries and other organizations on behalf of the Afghans in needed areas that have lasting results? The truth is that these organizations also follow their own benefits and objectives. They do that work by which on the one hand they can convince the donors and on the other hand, do the easy job at high costs. The donor countries should work on a transparent mechanism by which all projects are designed based on social priorities and with long-lasting results. Thanks


I welcome such assistance from UNDP and other international charities, but I hope that the UNDP and other donors expand their reach to other parts of Afghanistan. By doing so, on the one hand, aid will reach more deserving people, and on the other hand, internal displacement will be prevented. When charities and international organizations focus on the big cities, such as Herat, people leave their villages, districts, and provinces and move to the big cities to benefit from such aid. In addition, now that security has been restored across the country and insecurity can no longer be an excuse for aid agencies, they may be able to extend their services to some provinces that have not received any assistance in the last 20 years and from long ago they live in a bad economic situation. These include Paktika, Uruzgan, Zabul, Nuristan, Laghman, Helmand, Ghor, and other provinces. Thank you


For now, it is a bad work opportunity as the people have got busy, but in the long term, this work cannot help them fulfill their needs because these are short-term projects. For some time, they will keep the people busy, then stop work. When these works end, whom will the workers work for? If people do not have food for dinner, how can they buy clothes for themselves? Instead of using money on such programs, I would say that it will be better as these organizations activate the Afghan carpets plants for the people and make them busy. If the Afghan carpets do not have a market inside the country, they have an excellent international market and regular customers. Also, weaving the Afghan rugs and selling them in the global markets have more benefits than sewing these clothes, and also, the Afghan products will be exported in the name of Afghanistan.


This process needs to be expanded further. Most UN agencies pay very high salaries to their international staff members. Given the current crisis in Afghanistan, UNDP and other international agencies should reduce the number of their international staff and replace them with Afghan staff. This way, on the one hand, the payment of higher salaries of international staff will be prevented, and that money will reach the poor people, and on the other hand, Afghan cadres will be employed. Through Salaam Times, I urge the United Nations and other international agencies to also start similar projects in Pashtun-populated areas. The Pashtun populated areas have been deprived of any aid and charity work for the last 20 years because, on the one hand, the Taliban were carrying out destructive activities. On the other hand, the government and the Western forces were bombing there. Therefore, the Pashtun populated areas and the facilities and services available are almost non-existent, and the traces of civilization have been completely destroyed.