KUNDUZ -- The Norwegian Afghanistan Committee (NAC) is implementing a three-month work-for-food initiative for 150 impoverished Afghan women in Badakhshan province.
With support from the World Food Programme (WFP), NAC has created employment for these women in agriculture support projects in Keshem and Shuhada districts and in the sixth district of Faizabad, Badakhshan's provincial capital.
The initiative launched on August 2, said Qutbuddin Dehnawi, director of the Badakhshan Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.
"These women work in the farms of the Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock of Badakhshan and the provincial women's park, in return for food packages that they receive at the end of each month," he said.
The food packages contain flour, oil and chickpeas, he added.
"Qoriyas (agricultural nurseries) have already been set up in the area," he said. "These women are busy taking care of trees, plants and weeding."
Many of the women participating in the initiative are their family's sole breadwinner, and they say the programme helps cover their family's daily expenses.
Qudsia, 36, a beneficiary of the project in Faizabad, said she is happy with her work, as the food items provided by the project meet her daily needs.
"I used to work in the private sector," she said. "I was jobless for months until I finally got work in the farms in Faizabad."
"We weed the qoriyas, water the plants daily and maintain them to harvest," she said.
Working on the project is essential for her, as the food she gets at the end of each month feeds her children, she said.
Gulsum Ashrafi, another beneficiary of the project in Faizabad, said she was in a dire economic situation before joining the initiative.
"I was a schoolteacher before this," she said. "Because of unemployment in the last year, I turned to the agriculture sector."
"We are happy that there is decent work for women, and we can now have legitimate income and contribute to our country's greenery," she said.
"We have the right to work outside our homes and earn our living," Ashrafi said, adding that women should not stay at home.
After losing many male breadwinners to the war, and amid the high rate of unemployment among men, women must work to keep their families alive, local residents say.
"Women must work in these tough economic times to feed their families," said Abdul Raouf Karimi, a Badakhshan resident.
"Working women face many challenges," he said, "but they will overcome those challenges and will make a brighter future for themselves."
"The more work opportunities women have, the more they will be able to provide for their families and become financially independent," Karimi added.