It was spring, in May, and flowers were waking up for a new beginning when I landed in Jalalabad. The aim of the visit was to see the progress of the project called Support Afghanistan livelihoods and Mobility, SALAM.
SALAM is supporting Internally Displaced People and Afghan Returnees from Pakistan and Iran to learn new skills, start their businesses and even go abroad for work. UNDP, ILO, UNHCR and Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs are implementing the project. Finland’s contribution is 4.5 million euros for the project, years 2017 – 2019.
SALAM project is supporting Afghan returnees and internally displaced people to employ themselves. Photo: Sayed Omer Sadaat/UNDP
On the second day, I visited a place where SALAM was training women on new skills. During conversation with beneficiaries, I heard the same sentences several times:
“SALAM is a very good project.”
“It has benefited us a lot.”
“Thanks to Finland.”
“It should continue.”
Meanwhile, I saw a girl sitting in a corner with her sewing machine eagerly raising her hand. On her turn she turned to her classmates and asked:
“All is true, but what will we do when the project is finished?”
I broke the silence and asked her what her solution would be.
“My solution is that I should start my own business”, she said.
Just out of curiosity I asked again: “How will you start it?”
“I have already talked with my father and brother. They have promised that they will go to Jalalabad bazar and talk with shopkeepers to secure orders. Then I will sew orders in my home to earn some money. And I will not stop there. I have talked with few of my neighbors to come and work in my factory. “
SALAM project is teaching also women enterprise skills. Photo: Sayed Omer Sadaat/UNDP
Quite ambitious, I thought. But her plan was to start with her own self, start an enterprise, and then bring other women in and be a source of income for her family.
It was quite an astonishing moment:
Someone was thinking proactively.
Someone was thinking to bring it to the next level.
Someone was talking about sustainability.
Someone was talking about independency, not dependency.
And expanding it.
I thought that actually we are cultivating seeds, which will germinate into trees. My chest puffed up with happiness.
I saw that her eyes were glittering with hope.
By Kashmir Khan Shaoor
The author works as Development Cooperation Coordinator in Embassy of Finland in Afghanistan.