Women Benefit from Livelihood Assistance


One hundred and twenty-five women are no
longer having to struggle to survive in Afghanistan's northern
province of Faryab after being helped by an IOM programme to learn
new skills and start businesses.

The group, all of them widows or vulnerable
women, were identified for assistance by the Afghan Ministry of
Women's Affairs. Among them was Nadia, a widowed mother of five
whose only means of earning a living beforehand was through washing
clothes and cleaning houses. Through the programme, Nadia was
provided with tools to make ghilums, traditional Afghan rugs.

"Now everything is better for me. I can work
from home and spend more time with my children," Nadia explained.
Before joining the programme, it was a struggle to buy household
goods. Now she can easily purchase flour, tea, soap and clothes for
her children by selling three ghilums a month at bazaars and to

With one of the lowest life expectancy rates
in the world following decades of war, Afghanistan has more than
one million widows. Instability and a restrictive Taliban regime
had also prevented women from having access to education and skills
training that could have helped them to support themselves and
their families.

"Afghanistan is a peaceful place now where
widows can pass through life with these kinds of projects," said
38-year-old Zareena, another participant on the programme that also
provided literacy, health education, and human rights classes. As
important as earning more money for Zareena was the new found
ability to read to her children and the basic health education she
has received.

"I learned how to prevent illnesses through
washing dishes with soap," she explained. "I do not have a TV and
rarely leave my home. This type of education was the only
opportunity we had to learn."

As well as learning to make ghilums, the
livelihood programme in Faryab gave a group of 25 women with
children a cow each and some animal care training, allowing them to
sell milk and diary products such as cheese and butter at

"Not a lot of people have cows so families
have limited access to dairy products in Faryab," according to
Sophie Nuon, IOM programme officer in the Faryab capital of
Maimana. "Most families consume rice, beans, bread and can only
afford to eat meat every so often. This project not only gave these
women a chance to generate income but is also improving their
nutrition." Many of these women are also able to exchange their
dairy products for other goods with community members.

Other IOM programmes targeting women in
Afghanistan have included computer and English language classes for
vulnerable women with some level of higher education. More than 100
female students, teachers and workers in government ministries
participated in this project. The UN's World Food Programme
partnered with IOM on the project to provide food rations to
students and to teachers working on an unpaid, voluntary basis.

Funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and
Cooperation (SDC) and the Australian government, the livelihood and
education support activities are part of a wider IOM programme to
assist Afghanistan's internally displaced people (IDPs). After
helping more than 400,000 IDP to return home or to resettle
elsewhere, the programme will close by the end of this month due to
lack of funds.

“There are still 150,000 IDPs left in
the country, an estimated 40,000 of whom need assistance to return
home. We not only take people home but we help with initial
reintegration through income generating activities for the most
vulnerable such as widows and the establishment of water projects
in a country that often suffers from drought. The premature closing
of the programme means there will be a lot of work left undone. We
could be helping so many more Nadias and Zareenas,” said
Peter Sorensen, IOM Afghanistan’s chief of mission.

For more information contact:

Rahilla Zafar

Tel: +93 (0)70066036

E-mail: "mailto:rzafar@iomkabul.net" target="_blank" title=

© IOM 2006 (Photo: Rahilla Zafar)