HERAT -- In the basement of a five-storey building in northern Herat city, 60 young females are busy learning tailoring.
Some are school or college-age students; others have lost their job in the past year. But one thing they all share is their resolve to learn and work and be active members of society.
"We will fight to bring back hope and achieve our goals," said Nadia Rasouli, 17, a junior high school student. "If we cannot go to school today, we will definitely open the doors of schools tomorrow or the day after and resume our studies."
"I am sure that with time, and through pursuing education and knowledge, we will return to normal life and be successful."
This, in turn, will help save Afghanistan from poverty, she added.
The vocational training to teach tailoring skills to women and girls deprived of education and work was launched last month by two sisters in Herat city.
"My spirits were very low after I lost my job and was trapped at home," said one of the sisters, Mariam Yusufi, who lost her job at a local NGO after the ban on women's work for NGOs took effect last December.
"We decided to launch this vocational workshop so that we have something to keep us busy as well as create an opportunity for other girls to come out of their homes and engage in activities," she said.
"Sitting at home and waiting for others to decide our fate are not the solution," Yusufi said. "Girls and women must find the courage to come out of their homes to work and learn."
Her sister Yalda, 19, was a first-year student at Herat University before the ban on girls' education was implemented. She now teaches tailoring to the 60 women and girls attending their workshop for free.
The objective of this vocational workshop is to build the capacity of girls and women and save them from psychological and mental pressures and the stress of being trapped at home, she said.
"I am a woman and have a deep understanding of the country's situation," she said. "I want to support women through this workshop so that we have more capable females in our society."
Fight for women's rights
Samira Noori, 18, a senior high school student, started taking English and computer courses after schools closed, but even those were banned later.
Staying at home and waiting for the reopening of schools were torture, she said.
"There was no more hope. I was stressing myself day and night at home, seeing my hopes destroyed, so I decided to join the tailoring workshop, which is the start of my social activities, and I am going to be more and more active."
"I have been coming to the tailoring workshop for 20 days and am hopeful in life again," she added. "I am sure that schools and universities will reopen and until then, I will continue my work and social activities outside the home."
Girls deprived of education have been demanding the reopening of their schools and universities.
With the closure of educational institutions, girls have lost all hope, said Fatima Noorzai, a ninth grader in Herat city.
But her mental state has improved ever since she started taking tailoring, she said.
"I have been suffering for more than a year and a half from the closure of schools," she said. "We Afghan girls call for the immediate reopening of schools and universities."
"We have big dreams that can be realised only through education. We want to serve Afghanistan and bring prosperity to our people through education," she added.
Asma Mohammadi, in eighth grade, also has been coming to the tailoring workshop for over three weeks.
"Since the closure of schools, I had been at home and under so much mental and psychological pressure due to stress. But since joining the tailoring workshop, I have been happier," she added.
"My demand, like that of every Afghan girl, is to reopen schools and universities for girls. The longer these educational institutions remain closed, the more time will be wasted for girls, and they will lose hope," Asma said.
With the reopening of schools and universities, the road to education, through which Afghan women can build a bright future for themselves and for their country, will reopen, she said.