HERAT -- As unemployment and economic crisis deepen in Afghanistan, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and a German charity have provided vocational training to 550 men and women to help them find jobs and income.
About 200 women and 350 men are ready to work after graduating from a six-month vocational training programme on November 14 at the Herat city office of Help -- Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe.
The graduates of the programme have been trained in technical fields so they can enter the work market and serve the public, said Asif Folad, director of the Afghan office of Help.
"The trainees are provided with the necessary tools in their related fields. We will conduct an assessment after two months after their graduation to see how many of them got jobs or have started a small business," he added.
"We help them find a job," he added. "Based on our reports, about 70% of our graduates from the previous round got placement."
Another 500 candidates will be admitted in the next round of vocational training, Folad said.
These men and women come from poor families in Herat city and some districts of the province, said Fereshta Yaqobi, director of the Organisation for Sustainable Aid in Afghanistan, the NGO implementing the vocational training.
"The fields these individuals are trained in are in demand ... right now, and their work is needed," she added. "We are confident that none of these men and women will remain unemployed."
In addition to vocational training, girls and women in this round were trained in life skills and psychology so that they can cope with hopelessness.
Help has provided vocational training to 13,000 men and women in Afghanistan since 2008.
A new life
Graduates of this round of training say that learning a profession has opened up a new phase in their lives.
Naheed Walizada, 19, a resident of Herat city, learned tailoring professionally.
Walizada, previously a high school student, turned to vocational training after being deprived of attending school.
She said she is now working in a tailoring shop and will have income from now on.
"I did not have any motivation at the beginning of the training and felt that I wouldn't be able to learn to tailor," she added. "But with time, I found motivation and learned tailoring professionally in the last six months."
"Now that I have a profession, I have hope for life and I can see myself closer to my goals and dreams," she said.
Fatima Rahmani, 16, also a one-time high school student, is another graduate of this round of vocational training. She learned embroidery professionally over the past six months.
In addition to learning embroidery, taking a life skill class gave her new motivation and life, developing her self-confidence, Fatima said.
"I learned in this training that aspiration is an ability itself," she added. "I call on girls and women not to lose their purpose and to realise they have the strength to do whatever they want to and never feel weak."
"I am very happy to have a job now. I want to progress and build a good future for myself," she said.
Fatima Mohammadi, 15, another graduate of the programme, was trained in carpet weaving.
She wants to work and support her family, she said.
"The implementing NGO was paying me a 7,000 AFN ($80) monthly stipend during the six months of training," she added. "With that money, I saved my family from poverty."
Fatima said she wanted to support her family from now on.
Hope and progress
Other participants who have dealt with years of unemployment and poverty agreed that they are ready for work.
Farshad Mohammadi, 23, was trained in repairing mobile phones.
"I was jobless, but I learned professional mobile phone repair in this round of the training," he said. "I am the breadwinner of my family and can earn a living for them."
Mohammadi said that he feels empowered after learning a profession.
"I wanted to go to Iran for work, but after getting into the vocational training, I changed my mind," he said. "I am happy working in my own country and city and not relying on others."
Farzad Azizi, 24, the breadwinner of a family of six who just received training in carpentry, said that he was jobless and in a dire economic situation.
But his life has improved since he took on vocational training, he said.
"I was very concerned about not having a job and the economic problems I had, which led to mental health problems," he added. "But now I am happy that I learned a profession and can serve my family and society."
"I have talked to a carpentry shop and want to work with it. I am supposed to get a 20,000 AFN ($229) monthly salary from now on," Azizi added.