Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghanistan: Women's Vocational Training Neglected

Concerns that schemes designed to help women become economically self-sufficient have been abandoned.
By Ahmad Shah
  • Women work on textiles during vocational training in Kabul. (Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)
    Women work on textiles during vocational training in Kabul. (Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)






Gender rights activists in Khost complain that vocational programmes for women have been allowed to fall into ruin since the formation of Afghanistan’s national unity government more than two years ago.

Many NGOs in Afghanistan focus on small-scale farming, sewing or food production schemes intended to help women who often are their families’ sole breadwinners.

But activists in the southern province said that local women were sinking further into poverty due to a lack of investment in projects to help them become economically self-sufficient.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani formed a government in September 2014 after agreeing a power-sharing deal with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who was appointed to the new post of chief executive officer, akin to prime minister.

Both had their own constituencies to consider, and many key government and provincial posts were only filled on an acting basis. This has had a destabilising effect on governance, and meant that the leadership has not been able to deliver on promises to create jobs and rebuild the economy.

Khost provincial council member Wagma Arezoo said that handicrafts workshops and exhibitions, once seen as a key way of empowering Afghan women, had fallen away over the last two years.

“We have realized that both leaders ignore us,” she said.

Local activist Nasrin agreed that rates of poverty were on the rise.

 “Women are very concerned because the national unity government has not provided economic programmes for women, and now many girls and women beg in the streets,” she said. “There are women capable of learning vocational work, but the government has no opprotunities for them so they have no choice but to wash clothes and do the household chores of other families.”

Khost council member Zahra Jalal, said that women with no family breadwinner faced a particularly dire situation.

Jalal said, “Many are poverty-stricken widows. Others have husbands who are disabled and cannot work, and they face an uncertain future. There are no sewing, embroidering, shepherding or other vocational programmes. If someone gives them food, they eat. Otherwise, they stay hungry and beg on the streets.”

Adil Azizi, spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in the country’s south-east, said that they had lobbied local officials last year to develop schemes for women, especially the disabled.

“We held meetings about social justice with many departments to create vocational programmes for women. Unfortunately, [many] departments ignored us. This year we are going to set up many more such meetings and I am hopeful that we will have some success.”

Senior Khost officials agreed that creating job opportunities for women needed to be a priority.

Mubariz Mohammad Zadran, the spokesman for the Khost governor, said, “We have had many meetings with Khost’s social activists, women’s support organisations and the director of the department of women’s affairs to discuss these problems.”

“We are committed to solving problems faced by women,” he concluded.

Malalai Wali, director of Khost’s department of women’s affairs, acknowedged that targeted training schemes had been neglected since the formation of the unity government.

“We have repeatedly shared the problems with those organisations and departments which work to support and improve the lives of women, both orally and in formal documents,” she said.

“I do agree and I ackowledge all the problems,” Wali continued. “It has been almost two years since the establishment of the national unity government’s, but few significant projects have been implemented to boost and develop the economic standards of Khost women. I call on the government to show they care about women by prioritising their problems and taking serious steps to resolve them.”

This report was produced under IWPR’s Promoting Human Rights and Good Governance in Afghanistan initiative, funded by the European Union Delegation to Afghanistan.

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