There are roughly 2 million widows in Afghanistan – nearly 15% of the country’s female population. Imagine: if 15% of American women were widows, they would fill New York City. Twice.
The need is great – our response must be too.
Here are some of the widows who have learned life-changing skills in the programs we have designed and sponsored with our NGO partners.
When Allul Gul’s husband died and left her with three young teen-agers, she earned a little food and money cleaning houses for neighbors. But it was not enough to pay for school fees or heat.
Our NGO partner CARE invited her to participate in one of our job-training programs. With a dairy cow, training, and access to vet care, she was able to feed her children badly needed protein. And with the money she earned selling milk and yogurt, she joined a Community-based Savings Group in her neighborhood.
“I could not have imagined the changes in my life,” Alla Gul said. “Now we have money we can spend and save. From the money I saved in the CBSG, and the business knowledge I gained there, I was able to borrow and open a shop. My son has started buying and selling items there. My dairy products are also sold in that shop. I applied for the group loan and received it the second and third times. With the profit we gained … I was able to pay back my group loans and use the money for other urgent needs.”
Pikai also participated in the livestock program. When her husband was killed during the war, she became the only support for her five children. She worked a neighbor’s land for food but had almost nothing left over to educate her children. She sent her eldest son to work in a factory and kept her girls at home. Only the youngest boy went to school.
Everything changed when she was given her first cow.
“I can see the change in my children’s health. And the nearby shopkeeper told me he will buy all the dairy products at a good price. With the money I have made selling yogurt I have bought food for my family, medicine for my daughter, and food for the cow. I am very happy to have the chance to become a productive person and help myself and my children.”
Mirmon’s husband, who had been an architect with the military, was killed in a rocket attack. In addition to her own seven children – including one son with severe disabilities -- she was helping raise her daughter’s two children. Her elderly mother also lived with them.
Together with CARE, we were able to finance Mirmon’s enrollment in a poultry-raising project. She was given hens, feed rations, and chicken coop materials. With new technical skills and productive assets, Mirmon was able to pay school expenses for the children.
“I have two readily available, best-quality protein sources for my children. All of my sons except the sick one are going to school. And I have decided to send them all to university. It requires hard work, but I hope no one will ever forget us. I thank CARE, who supported us in the harsh and disappointing Taliban era, and even until today.”
Salbi’s husband died of tuberculosis – a disease brought under control in developed countries decades ago. Salbi and her five children were in dire need, unable to pay for food or heat in the cruel Afghan winter. Then they found our partner Arzu, which works with Afghan women to weave beautiful indigenous rugs for western markets.
Since joining Arzu, Salbi earns consistent income and is able to nourish and educate her children. “My daughters can read anything and feel a lot of joy,” Salbi says. “The courses for them are refreshing. With the help from Arzu we have been saved from poverty and hunger.”
Taj is not a widow, but her work is changing the lives of widows in her community. With one of our NGO partners, BPeace, Taj started a small soccer ball manufacturing company. She learned quality control, inventory management and marketing in the US as a BPeace apprentice.
We helped her buy a generator and electric cutting machine, significantly increasing production. At our last communication, Taj employed over 300 Afghan women, who were supporting more than 1,800 family members. “Bpeace has helped my business provide a regular income for poor women. This is a great achievement for Afghan society.”
Community-based Savings Groups:
We recently funded 50 new Community-based Savings Groups (CBSGs), enrolling 900 new members through our partner CARE. Here are some of their stories.
Faiza is a 40-year-old mother of six. Her oldest daughter is 22 and has graduated from school. Her eldest son is studying engineering. Her younger children are also enrolled in school.
“I joined a CBSG and learned a lot through the trainings. I borrowed from the loan box and bought a calf, which I then sold for a profit. Then I was able to create an ice cream shop and buy equipment. Now my son has an ice cream trolley too. He makes 100 to 200 AFN daily. Sometimes I am in the shop, or my son will be there instead of me. Life has become better. I am really thankful that CARE is providing such income opportunities for poor and vulnerable people like me.”
Sima graduated from our first phase of CBSGs. Like many Afghan women, she was married young to a much older man. While her husband is still alive, he is too elderly to help support their children. A few years ago, Sima received a cow from CARE, then joined the CBSG. She now has five calves from the original cow. She gets enough milk from the small herd to pay all her family’s expenses, including her children’s school fees. “I am so glad to be working with CARE so many years,” she says.
Fariba was also a part of our first phase of CBSGs. Prior to joining, she was socially isolated because her family would not allow her to leave the house for any reason. This is still all too typical in a country whose recognition of women’s rights is still emerging. Fariba could not even visit her mother and sisters and suffered from depression.
When the CBSG formed in her neighborhood, her mother-in-law became a member and soon secured permission for Fariba to join. Fariba started speaking up at meetings and taking part in group discussions. She says she now counts the days until the next meeting and feels the most valuable benefits are to meet with other women, gain confidence in public speaking, and increase her independence.