Jewelry Making Brings Hope to Impoverished Women in Herat

UNDP Afghanistan / GEP: Sima Gul, 38, who takes responsibility of her sick husband's shoulders though making and selling small pieces of jewellery
UNDP Afghanistan / GEP / Anusha Ahmadi: Sima Gul, 38, who takes responsibility off her sick husband's shoulders through making and selling small pieces of jewelry.

A UNDP programme trains women in jewelry making so that they can provide their families with incomes and escape abusive situations

Every day Sediqa, 26, walks for two hours to get to her jewelry making class. “I save my transportation allowance to buy food for my children,” she says.

With four children in need of support and a husband currently in prison for murder, Sediqa has long been struggling on the brink of destitution. A fractured arm due to a past of domestic violence and psychological problems resulting from years of abuse, have made it impossible for her to earn a living though wage labor.

A career making jewelry through a UNDP-supported training programme, however, may provide her with a fresh start on life.

“Jewelry making is an easier way to make money” she says. And while her new skills are helping her become financially independent, they have also helped her find new value in her strength and abilities. “I would never have believed that I had the ability to learn anything," she says. "I had stopped believing in myself."

As part of a UNDP Gender Equality Project, the jewelry making course in the Injil District of Herat has been providing training to 20 women who face particularly dire financial prospects.

For the past six months, women who depend on husbands struggling with drug addiction or who have been forced to undertake heavy housework and hard labor for less than US$ 2 a day have had a chance to learn a new set of skills.

As most women who participate have had no formal education, the programme offers a five month-long training to help them acquire the necessary skills to run a future business. “We now know how to read and calculate as well,” say Nadia and Shafiqa who took part in the literacy programme.

In a war-torn country such as Afghanistan, providing women with the necessary skills to pursue a career is vitally important. While women often suffer the most in the aftermath of conflict, as they usually lack access to education, stable employment and equal rights, providing jobs for women can quickly lead to an improved quality of life for entire households.

"The Gender Equality Project aims to empower women to become active and visible members of Afghan society. One of the key components of the Project is economic empowerment which not only assists vulnerable women, but also improves local economies", says Gulistan Ibadat, Economic Empowerment Specialist in UNDP’s GEP II.

In terms of long-term prospects, the project will soon provide advanced business development and marketing courses later this year. Furthermore, the project will establish a Jewelry Producing Association, which will be run by the women themselves to help set up exhibitions, exposure visits and help network with other businesswomen.

For Sediqa, life still holds many challenges. She and her four children live in her sister's tiny kitchen and receive threatening messages from her brother-in-law ordering them to vacate the room. Despite her dire situation, however, her new skills in jewelry making provide a glimmer of hope.

“I make about 100 to 150 Afghani (US$ 1.75-2.60) per day from making jewelry,” she says. Through the UNDP programme, she hopes to learn the necessary skills to someday build her own small business. “My dream is to be economically independent to provide a good education for my children, so that they don’t go through the same challenges that I experience every day,” she says.

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