Jobs Training Changes the Life of an Afghan Woman and her Family

by Rebecca Lee

Mah Jan in AfghanistanAs a young mother in Afghanistan, Mah Jan shared the same worries as millions of women around the world who lack access to paid work:

How can I earn money for myself and my family?

How can I ensure a brighter future for my children?

How can I support the women and girls in my community?

Mah Jan’s story is typical of girls born into poor, uneducated families in Central Asia. Her childhood years were difficult. Problems at home forced her to drop out of school in the seventh grade. She married very young and soon found herself with six children. She was expected to stay home, raise the children, and do the household chores. So Mah Jan made the only choice available to her; she put her dream of getting an education on hold.

On hold, but not forgotten.

Hope came alive again years later when, at the age of 38, Mah Jan enrolled in a literacy and vocational training program funded by Central Asia Institute. She spent nine months improving her literacy skills, then focused her attention on learning how to sew. Within six months, she had completed a tailoring course and was hired by the program staff to teach tailoring to other students.

Mah Jan loved teaching, but the income wasn’t sufficient to support her family. Thanks to her training, however, she was able to refine her skills and start her own business from her home. Now, in addition to sewing her children’s clothes, she offers her services for pay to private customers. “It seemed like a fairy tale that I would get a job and earn money for my family while supporting women and girls as a whole,” she says proudly.

Mah Jan’s tailoring business has transformed her life. “Before becoming involved with the tailoring class, my family’s living conditions were difficult. But the income and benefits received from tailoring changed my life situation. With the little I earn, I am able to pay the rent on our home, which was one of the biggest problems we had. We are now living happy because the future looks bright for my family. My small business helps me to increase the family income and ease any difficulties.”

Thanks to her newfound skills as a tailor and her generous spirit, Mah Jan believes that she can end the cycle of poverty and desperation in her family and also lead the way in changing attitudes towards women in her family and society. “My family and relatives are proud to see me working. The gift of tailoring makes me feel grateful. I can now pass on the same knowledge to my relatives and the women and girls in my community.”

“I want to act as a role model for my community,” says Mah Jan. “I want to be a teacher to empower the next generation of girls. If it were not for Central Asia Institute, I would be sitting home, not earning, and not able to support my family. Today, I work and earn! Central Asia Institute has given me the skills and opportunity. Thank you, Central Asia Institute!”

For women living in Afghanistan and other impoverished areas of Central Asia, vocational training provides the critical non-book education that makes earning income for their families possible. And it has an amazing ripple effect. Women who receive an education and livelihood (job) skills not only contribute to their family’s income and the local economy but also tend to pass these skills and benefits on to the next generation.

For 23 years, Central Asia Institute has been unlocking the full potential of girls and women through education and training. And we are seeing progress, especially when it comes to access to quality education. That’s where livelihood training becomes so invaluable. Livelihood training supported by Central Asia Institute is unlocking women’s economic potential, offering hope and opportunities that didn’t exist before, and helping to change not only women’s attitudes towards themselves but also their status in society. Thanks to your generous help, we’re expanding our services in this exciting new direction to empower women to become agents of change towards more prosperous and peaceful societies.