Zuhal Amiri is the only female staff member of the ICT team. She feels lucky working in a professional environment at UNDP. Photo@ UNDP / Zohra Islamuddin 2019

One of the biggest challenges of building a career is finding the experience in the workplace to make yourself an attractive candidate for a job. It is especially difficult if you are a young woman in a country like Afghanistan, trying to make your mark in a society traditionally dominated by men.

That’s why the United Nations Development Programme in Afghanistan runs a Young Women Professionals Programme (YWPP), which gives young women the chance to get valuable work experience and skills to position them for future employment, both within and outside the UN system.

The scheme started in September 2017 with an intake of ten interns. For most of them, the YWPP has been their first experience in the workplace after leaving higher education. Zuhal Amiri is one of the young women who took part in the programme. Zuhal studies Computer Science at a private university in Kabul. She spent one year as an intern in the ICT (information and communication technology) Unit of UNDP. Now, a year later, she has joined UNDP as a full-time member of staff.

“The UNDP YWPP programme is a great opportunity for fresh graduates,” Zuhal says. “I think that, without this opportunity, I would not have been able to find a job in the organization of my choice.”

Zuhal is only the second young woman in her family who is pursuing higher education and a career. Most women in her family have settled down to marry and raise children straight after school.

“Some of my relatives were pushing me to stop studies, and encouraging me to marry after I finished school,” says Zuhal. “But my close family, and especially my brothers, helped me to continue my education and I was free to choose my life path on my own.”

Jocelyn Mason, outgoing Resident Representative for UNDP in Afghanistan, praised the way the YWPP scheme is working. “The YWPP scheme has been a great success for us, and for the young people who participate in it. UNDP benefits from the skills and enthusiasm of these highly educated and intelligent young people, whilst they get the experience they need to apply for good jobs in the future.”

Of the ten interns who joined the YWPP scheme when it began in September 2017, most are now in full-time employment. A new batch of ten interns started work in late 2018.

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