Economy

US-based charity provides vocational training, hope to Afghans in Kandahar and Herat

By Omar

More than 1,600 young Afghans are learning vocational skills through a US-funded programme in Herat and Kandahar provinces. The US State Department on August 3 launched the capacity-building and job training programme, implemented by US-based charity Mercy Corps. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- More than 1,600 young Afghans are learning vocational skills through a US-funded programme in Herat and Kandahar provinces.

More than half of the participants are female.

The US State Department on August 3 launched the capacity-building and job training programme, implemented by US-based charity Mercy Corps.

The six-month-long programme comes as Afghanistan grapples with rising unemployment and youth emigration.

Female students are seen August 30 in a first aid training course in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Female students are seen August 30 in a first aid training course in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Women learn embroidery in a class August 30 in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Women learn embroidery in a class August 30 in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

The US State Department has provided $3 million to fund the project.

Young Afghans will acquire skills in 18 professions in six centres in Herat and Kandahar, said Jack Byrne, Mercy Corps country director in Afghanistan.

"We aim to build a skilled workforce for the long term, and this project will not be short-term," he said. "We hope to see all participating trainees under this project enter the labour market as skilled workers in the coming 9 to 10 months."

"The main purpose of the project is to help the youth find jobs and support their families," he added.

Mercy Corps will soon start four other projects aimed at providing drinking water and supporting agriculture across rural areas in Afghanistan with funding support from the US government, said Byrne.

Hope for a better future

The training offered by Mercy Corps has given participants, especially Afghan women, hope for a better future.

Bibi Gul Nabizada, 32, is learning to weave rugs in a Mercy Corps training centre in Herat city. She has learned the basics of weaving over the past month and aspires to make high quality rugs after graduating from the six-month course.

She said she was unemployed before joining the rug-weaving course but is now hopeful and excited about her future.

"I want to learn weaving rugs professionally so that I can produce quality rugs, serve my society and support Afghanistan's rug industry," she said.

"My husband is unemployed, and our household economy is fragile. I want to earn an income and support my family," Nabizada said.

Sadaf Yousofi, 24, is learning embroidery at a Mercy Corps vocational training centre in Herat city.

She said she has regained hope for her life and is motivated to attend classes every day.

"I was a second-year student at Herat University's faculty of science last year," she said. "However, I could not continue my studies and had to drop out because of economic challenges. I had to stay home and coped with numerous difficulties after leaving the university."

"My mental health has improved and I am motivated now that I attend the embroidery class," Yousofi said. "I want to become an embroidery instructor in the future and pass on the skills to other women and girls."

Providing the opportunity for Afghan women to learn skills is very effective and valuable amid the tough circumstances in the country, said Zahra Mohammadi, 21, who like Yousofi is learning embroidery in Herat city.

"I was unemployed and felt exhausted at home," she said. "However, now that I am learning embroidery, I feel empowered and hope to revolutionise my life."

"I have a high school diploma, but I could not prepare for the Kankor (university entrance) exam or start going to the university because of economic problems," she said.

"I am happy that I can support my family," she added.

Averting youth migration

Almost half of the participants in vocational skill courses supported by Mercy Corps are young men, and many say they have reconsidered previous immigration plans after participating in the courses.

Qasim Hajati, 29, a resident of Guzara district in Herat province, recently joined a class to learn how to repair mobile phones at Mercy Corps training centre in Herat city.

Since starting the course last month, he said he has already learned the basics of repairing smartphones.

"I was suffering from unemployment and had decided to migrate to Iran illegally. However, I revisited my decision after I started attending the training course," he said.

"Many young people decided to go to neighbouring countries to work before joining the vocational skill course," he said. "This is an incredible initiative and has prevented many young people from fleeing ... abroad."

Hajati said he felt very happy that he decided to stay with his family and is hopeful that he will soon find a job and earn money after completing the vocational course.

Sajid Haidari, 29, said he escaped unemployment when he enrolled in the blacksmithing class at the Mercy Corps centre in Herat city.

"I previously worked at the Herat Customs Department but lost my job almost a year ago," he said. "I was fed up with being jobless and decided to go overseas. I am so happy that I enrolled in the project and that I was not forced to migrate."

"I call on the international community to support Afghan youth so that they are not forced to go to neighbouring countries to find a job via illegal and dangerous routes," Haidari said.

"Unfortunately, thousands of our youth have been forced to leave the country because of unemployment," he added.

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This is a good project, and thanks to the United States' State Department for funding this project. In the meantime, don't you think that $3 million is too much for this project? $3 million is almost equal to 270 million Afghani, which is a lot for the inauguration of six centers. The United States and its allies should have learned lessons from the past 20 years. International aid has caused doubts among the people due to their inefficiency and prodigality. Dozens of educational centers could be built with 270 million Afghani. I am sure that if it is calculated accurately, the total cost of this project will not exceed more than three hundred thousand dollars, and the implementation NGO has embezzled and looted the remaining amount. The international community should pay more attention to transparency. Thanks

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Good to see that Salam Times has finally posted news from other regions of the country. I have been thinking till now that Salaam Times is following a double standard policy and covering certain regions for specific objectives. However, it is good that this news agency finally published a report from other provinces of Afghanistan. We hope that Salaam Times will expand its coverage area, and thank you for always trying to bring us praising and reliable news.

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Although this is good news, I and many others like me are not in favor of such projects because these projects are short-term and are not helpful for Afghans in the long term; the benefits of these projects should not be short-term because Afghans have suffered a lot. We need that kind of international assistance, which we could use for years.

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Look bro, this little support is more valuable than no support. People are dying. The Taliban also do not care about them. So, if these charity organizations did not exist, people would perish for hunger. Instead of criticizing these NGOs, we should pressure the Taliban to compromise with the international community to be recognized by them because no NGO can implement development programs in the country until the international community recognizes their government. This is the reason why these NGOs cannot execute development programs. I hope you are not offended by my words. Thanks

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Personally, I, and if others are asked, many people will say that they are not in favor of such temporary projects. Because of this, money borrowed from foreigners is spent so that there is no benefit in the future. Yes, the news "The irrigation canal funded by the United Nations will help the farmers of Balkh to eliminate water shortage" is very good because it benefits people now and years after.

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