SAR-E-PUL -- The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) this month launched an initiative to train 200 women in Sar-e-Pul in a nine-month tailoring course to enhance their sewing skills and help them earn a living.
The programme is paying each participant a stipend of 7,700 AFN ($88) per month for the length of the training course.
"Based on the results of a recent survey, we selected 200 poor women from Sar-e-Pul city's 36 neighbourhoods to attend the course and learn sewing skills," said Abdul Wahid Nabiyar, director of the Organisation for Rehabilitation and Rural Development of Afghanistan in Sar-e-Pul.
"The project commenced on October 28, and we organised the trainees into five centres where they receive practical and theoretical training by trained female instructors," he told Salaam Times.
He said the initiative is aimed at creating employment opportunities, helping women become self-sufficient and combating poverty and unemployment.
"All project beneficiaries are poor, and some of them are widows. We provided each of them with a sewing machine so they can practice at home and learn how to sew and earn some income to support their families in the future," he said.
The WFP will provide participants with more sewing tools after the course is completed, said Nabiyar.
"We hope they will make children and women's clothing at home, and sell their products in the market to become self-sufficient," he added.
In addition to tailoring skills, the trainees will acquire marketing skills that will enable them to sell their products, said Nabiyar.
Hope for a better future
Grateful for the WFP initiative and hopeful about the future, women taking part in the course say they plan to start their own business.
Niaz Bibi, 42, said she hopes she will soon be able to make various types of women's clothing.
"My husband is ill and cannot work. I have to learn sewing to feed my five-member family," she said.
"I used to support my family from the income I made from laundry work and baking, but that was not enough," she said, adding that sewing work will help her make a good living for her family.
Alia Haidary, 34, another participant, said she was facing financial trouble before starting the training course.
"After I lost my job, I started to face economic hardship. My father passed away a few years ago. I live with my mother and two sisters, and I am the only breadwinner," said Haidary, who used to work for a private company in Sar-e-Pul.
Haidary said that now that she started the training course, she is feeling very hopeful about the future.
"I have started to gradually learn new skills such as ... sewing and marketing. I hope I can make women's clothing with the tools that will become available to me after completing the training course."
"I should also be able to sell my products in the local market. Ultimately, I should be able to use that income to support my family," she added.
Women who used to make major contributions to their household incomes lost their jobs starting in August 2021, said Qudratullah Sayedzada, an economist in Sar-e-Pul.
"Providing vocational courses is of utmost importance to help women and girls learn new skills and ... stand on their own feet," he told Salaam Times.
"In order to help women become self-sufficient, training opportunities such as sewing, embroidery, beadwork and carpet weaving must be organised," he said.
While Afghan women were very active in society over the past two decades and achieved major goals, they are now the most marginalised group in society, according to Sayedzada.
Non-governmental organisations and other agencies must support them now more than ever, he said.