Women's Rights

With tailoring workshop, Herat professors throw girls a lifeline

By Omar

University professors in Herat province have opened a tailoring workshop to help their former female students who have been unable to attend university since they were banned from higher education eight months ago. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- Herat province university professors have opened a tailoring workshop to assist their former female students who have been unable to attend university since they were denied access to education eight months ago.

The ban on women's university attendance came after the ban on girls' attendance of school after sixth grade. The latter took effect immediately in August 2021.

Three months ago, out-of-work professor Fatima Ishaqzai, 35, established the workshop with two other female colleagues.

Ishaqzai, who used to teach law at Herat University, said the workshop is meant to create employment opportunities as well as a sense of hope for girls who have been unable to continue their studies.

Young women in Herat city learn sewing from a Herat University professor on June 24. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Young women in Herat city learn sewing from a Herat University professor on June 24. [Omar/Salaam Times]

"We are teaching sewing to 30 girls, most of whom are our former students, and some are school students," she said, adding that the girls had been homebound and were not feeling good about their situation.

"In the current situation, where educational institutions are closed to girls, the workshop will help girls to learn a skill and stay [mentally] healthy," she said.

"They will be able to learn and work," she added, as well as being able to contribute to the family finances.

Ishaqzai said some of her students were in their final year at the university but were not able to graduate, as they were no longer permitted to attend classes.

Frishta, 27, who declined to give her last name, previously taught information technology at Herat University but was dismissed from her position following the closure of universities to girls. She now teaches at the tailoring workshop.

After she lost her job, she began to suffer from stress and anxiety, she told Salaam Times.

So she and a number of professors in similar circumstances "explored options about how to cope with the current difficult situation to help both ourselves and our students".

"By establishing the workshop, we have created a new opportunity for ourselves," she said.

"The closure of universities impacted girls in many ways," she added. "For instance, they lost hope about their future and saw their dreams destroyed."

"It is very important that families and the general public support these girls and save them from their ongoing dire mental and emotional state."

"They truly need more support from society," Frishta said.

Staving off depression

After five months of being confined at home, Najla Amiri, 21, a former first-year student at Herat University's faculty of science, is learning how to sew.

"I was studying with great enthusiasm," Amiri said. "But when the university was closed to girls, I lost my hope and motivation and cried day and night."

Since joining the workshop, "I now have hope for life again," she said.

"Closing down universities for girls meant closing the opportunity for us to learn science and gain knowledge.

"But we shall not accept failure and will continue to progress by learning a skill and profession," she said.

"We will neither allow our dreams to just vanish nor confine ourselves at home."

Also attending the workshop is former 12th-grade student Yagana Nabizada, 17.

Yagana told Salaam Times that many girls are suffering from depression following the closure of schools and universities.

"Seeking to learn a skill will help reduce the prevalence of depression and psychological pressure among girls."

"The more we are present in society, the more motivated and hopeful we become about our future," she said.

"Although learning to sew has become a hobby and a business for us, it can never replace our desire to spend time in the classroom."

"We want to go back to our classrooms and study," she added.

School closures 'painful for all'

Workshop participant Khairia, 18, a former 11th-grade student, said she is counting time until schools reopen for girls in hopes that she can go back.

"No work or activity can take the place of the school classroom," she said.

"My wish is that the schools immediately reopen for girls so that we can continue our studies," she said, adding that there is "no other way" girls can achieve their dreams and goals.

"It has been two years since I last went to school, and the past two years have been the most difficult of my life."

"When I see that boys can go to school, but we cannot, it hurts me a lot. This is really unfair," Khairia said.

Closing schools to girls is un-Islamic and inhumane, she added.

Herat city resident Najiba Haidary, 38, whose daughter is being deprived of her education following the closure of schools, is demanding that they reopen.

She said her daughter is in the 11th grade and has been suffering from psychological distress since she was forced to stop attending school.

"The current situation is painful for all of us," Haidary said. "The closure of schools and universities has destroyed the dreams of girls and made their future dark."

"I was a 7th-grade student before 2001," she said. "I too was deprived of education when girls' schools were closed at that time. It is so unfortunate that my daughter is suffering the same fate almost 25 years later."

At the time, she said, she hoped to become a physician.

But her ambition never came to pass, she said, because after the truncation of her education and her marriage, authorities did not let her attend school when the schools reopened.

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My father used to say, learn art and keep it in the shelf. Till that the schools and universities get opened for girls, these girls can learn sewing or other arts. When schools, universities and offices are opened for girls, they can later resume their main work. Otherwise, if they are sitting at home, they will definitely suffer from psychological illnesses and their time will be wasted. It is said that one is better than zero and two is better than one. Let's support one instead of zero and let girls learn sewing and other similar professions. Hoping for a successful, proud Afghanistan, equipped with higher education.


This will entertain the female students and save them from depression, but what will happen to the future of these girls and Afghanistan, as long as the girls take refuge from depression in sewing, handicrafts, and school, this will not be the case. Girls have the right to study and build the future of their own and their country. In which law, all the girls of a country are seamstresses? Why, can you learn science with a sewing machine? Can you study handicrafts? No, it won't be like that. When in the future our country will need a female doctor or a female teacher, should they bring a female employee or doctor or a teacher from Pakistan or from Iran or from any other country to serve our people? On the ruling government, please do not play with the future of Afghan girls and open the gates of educational institutions for them.


It is true that these types of programs can help young people to obtain legitimate income in the future, but this process itself is a destructive and inhumane process. Man has not moved from science to sewing, but from sewing and other crafts to knowledge and sciences. Currently, in most countries of the world, many clothes are sewn by machine, not like in Afghanistan. People should gather and talk to the government leaders to find a solution in this regard. If people expect America, Europe or Russia and China to come and force the Taliban to stop such foolishness, this thought is imaginary and impossible and madness. The reason is clear. During the republic period, these same western embassies supported warlords such as Atta Mohammad Noor, Ismail Khan, Abdullah Abdullah, Qnuni, Fahim, Sayyaf... and other mobsters and did not allow the government to suppress them, and later on they handed over the power of the whole country to the Taliban. Now, whatever the wild Taliban do is up to them and their decision. They do whatever they want.


It is a perfect measure as they are helping them. Thanks to them. I just listened to an interview on Radio Azadi with a former Republican official. The interview was made with a [female] employee of the previous government system sitting at home. This woman has not lost her courage, and instead of reaching out to someone, she is going to her work. She has built a factory for cooking biscuits, with which 16 other women are busy working. Foruzan, a mother of seven children, said in her speech that her aim is to create a job for herself and other women, most of whom are the breadwinners of their families and are facing economic problems. Foruzan said that she learned the skill of cooking biscuits from her mother and received orders of 300 Kg. of kulchas a day, which provided income for her and the other women.


Learning skills is generally the key to progress in a society. Professors of Herat University have done a lot as they provide sewing training for girls. By doing this, on one hand, the psychological condition of the girls improves, and on the other hand, it becomes a source of income for the families.