Women Learn Small Business Skills, Look To Future with Hope

Laila (second from left), packing the spaghettis produced at the centre
UNDP Afghanistan: Laila (second from left), packing the spaghettis produced at the centre.

Aliabad, Mazar-e-Sharif: Five days in a week, Laila, a single mom of five children including an 18-year-old daughter, walks to the Food Processing Center in Aliabad village just outside Mazar city, learning the finer aspects of basic business development. The centre, housed in the ground-floor house of Zahra, another village woman, is host to 20 women  being trained as small businesswomen of the future.

Entrepreneurship is coming to Aliabad. The women are imparted skills in processing of food products that can easily sell in the local market. And they receive training in marketing of their produce that includes spaghetti, jams, pickles and household decorative handicrafts.

“After my husband disappeared without notice last year, I am left to fend for my family.  I had no skills that could have ensured a bare minimum income for the family”, Laila says.  “Since joining the food processing centre, I have found new hope for survival. I have learnt many skills and want now to have a small business of my own”, Laila adds with a chuckle.

Highlights

  • Overall, nearly 3300 women have received training through 87 projects in various aspects of livelihoods generation.
  • Forty women from four villages of Aliabad, Jafarabad, Husainabad and Nawabad of Naharshahi district in Balkh province are benefitting from training inputs supported as part of the women’s economic empowerment efforts of the National Area Based Programme (NABDP).
  • NABDP aims to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods in rural Afghanistan.
  • Close to 100 economic empowerment projects have been implemented in areas such as basic business development, carpet weaving, vocational training, tailoring, embroidery and bee-keeping.

Forty women from four villages of Aliabad, Jafarabad, Husainabad and Nawabad of Naharshahi district in Balkh province are benefitting from training inputs as part of the women’s economic empowerment efforts of the National Area Based Programme (NABDP).  The Programme is supported with funding from the Government of Netherlands to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and implemented by the Afghanistan Ministry for Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD).

NABDP aims to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods in rural Afghanistan.  In so doing it is helping catalyze progress on meeting the Millennium Development Goals on poverty and gender equality.

Mrs Zainab, Gender Advisor for NABDP in Mazar says extreme poverty and economic vulnerability are the main criteria for selection while identifying the women beneficiaries. The Community Development Councils (CDCs) at the village level identify households in need and women-headed households to pick beneficiaries for the Programme.

Overall, nearly 3300 women have received training through 87 projects in various aspects of livelihoods generation.  Close to 100 economic empowerment projects have been implemented in areas such as basic business development, carpet weaving, vocational training, tailoring, embroidery and bee-keeping.

Women learn to produce and market their produce. Zahra, the centre manager,  says income is good in winter when the raw materials – apples, apricots, carrots and cauliflowers, egg-plant, garlic, green chillies, tomato and cucumber -- are both fresh and affordable.  All income and profits are ploughed back in the centre, for use when the project funding dries up.

NABDP project support came in the form of furniture and fixtures for the centre, uniforms for the women trainees and a modest grant for purchase of wheat-flour, fruits and vegetables used in preparing spaghetti, jams and pickles.

Zahra feels what is missing is a bigger initiative that could place more income in the hands of the women. “Perhaps a cow and a cold storage could do it for the women.  With an investment in a cow they could use the milk to make products like cheese that can yield better income than the jams and pickles ever could”.

NABDP supports interventions designed to foster equitable participation in through equal voice in local-level development planning, decision-making and project implementation. The project supports economic improvement of women through training and educational courses, resulting in their recognition as active members of community and effecting overarching development and poverty reduction.

Produce from the Aliabad food processing centre is being sold to traders in the local Arya market in Mazar. The Aliabad women entrepreneurs-in-the-making want to take a longer-term view of their future. This could mitigate the shocks underlying the small business of jams and pickles that relies heavily on seasonal bounties.

“I have every hope that the success of this small USD 8,000 initiative will fuel more attention towards us and these women can be entrusted to implement bigger projects that place a decent income in their hands”, Zahra observes with visible optimism.

                                                                           Text: Kumar M Tiku