Empowering Hearts and Minds: Unveiling Hope and Transformation in Jibril, Herat
From Struggles to Smiles: Empowering Women, Embracing Solidarity
August 10, 2023
A heartwarming tale unfolds in the vibrant area of Jibril, Herat, where a group of women gathers, bound by a shared desire for togetherness and solidarity. Inside a spacious hall, amidst the flurry of cleaning and tidying, it becomes apparent that these women harbor grand ambitions for their salon. We find ourselves drawn to one particular woman.
With a delicate motion, she unfurls a white handkerchief across the mirror, gently erasing the dust particles, and reveals her radiant face. A few stray strands of hair caress her cheek, which she swiftly tucks away behind her vibrant red scarf. Slowly, she turns her gaze towards us, a tender smile illuminating her features. And so, she begins to share her story.
"In these trying times, a sense of security and inner peace has become a distant dream for people like me. One of our greatest joys and hopes was the pursuit of education, but alas, it has been unjustly snatched away from us."
Meet Mahsa (Name Changed), a courageous 19-year-old student in the 11th grade. Among her seven siblings, six are sisters and one is her brother. Together, they reside in the bustling city of Herat. However, after the imposition of severe restrictions on women following the recent political shifts in Afghanistan, Mahsa found herself confined to the confines of her home, sinking into a deep gloom.
The ban on girls' schools has become one of the many oppressive obstacles placed upon women, resulting in a surge of mental and emotional distress. Psychologists warn that the denial of education and limited employment opportunities for women has led to an alarming increase in mental health issues among women and girls. This distressing trend, in turn, creates further turmoil and discord within families and communities.
In response to these challenges, UNDP Afghanistan, through its ABADEI approach and in collaboration with its implementing partner, the Danish Refugee Council, orchestrated a transformative six-day training course on conflict mediation. The aim was to enhance awareness and knowledge surrounding women's safety, foster mutual understanding, and promote conflict resolution. Around 40 men and women enthusiastically participated in this empowering training held in Herat. Following its completion, the participants formed Community Safety Planning committees.
Mahsa was among the 40 remarkable individuals who completed this transformative course. Since then, she has emerged from her self-imposed isolation. A radiant smile now graces her face, as she feels secure and empowered to assist other women in coping with their psychological struggles. Drawing upon the newfound wisdom gained from the capacity-building activity, Mahsa's self-confidence has soared, enabling her to mediate and resolve conflicts within her community.
"Through this training course, I have learned how to confront my psychological challenges, even amid the widespread restrictions and exclusions. Today, I am no longer burdened by depression. Behold, the red veil I proudly wear symbolizes my newfound resilience and determination to uplift other women under this very roof."
To ensure the enduring impact of the training, two Community Safety Planning Committees were established—one comprising women and the other men—each consisting of 24 dedicated members. These committees play a crucial role in identifying conflicts within their local communities and facilitating collaborative solutions.
Amina Haydari, the driving force behind the women's Community Safety Planning committee, has long been a compassionate advocate, helping women in her neighborhood resolve their disputes. However, through her participation in the training course, she honed her mediation skills to an extraordinary level, approaching conflicts with greater sensitivity and grace.
"Previously, when I offered my judgment to settle disputes, one party would often be pleased, while the other would be filled with anger, even threatening us with dire consequences. But through this training, I discovered that such an approach was flawed. Now, instead of imposing judgments, we create a safe space for dialogue. Both sides of the conflict find their own resolution, bringing happiness not only to themselves but also to us."
The Women's Community Safety Planning Committee embarked on an ambitious journey to develop a business plan for a collective income-generating activity. Their collective decision led to the establishment of a restaurant within the safety center, which received vital financial support from UNDP Afghanistan to bring their vision to life. The restaurant exclusively employs women, creating an atmosphere where women from the community feel wholly secure and empowered. With the income generated, the Committee has achieved financial independence and is actively planning new initiatives that will further benefit women in their community.
The stories of Mahsa and Amina serve as shining examples among the thousands of men and women who have benefited from this social cohesion project between March 2022 and March 2023. This initiative has brought about positive change and empowerment in the lives of numerous individuals. Through the project, 261 civil society organizations have actively engaged in peacebuilding and advocacy efforts, while a remarkable total of 247,166 people have reaped the benefits of social cohesion and advocacy activities (including 11,210 women). This significant impact has been made possible thanks to the generous funding from the government of Japan, whose support has played a pivotal role in making these transformative endeavors a reality.
Empowerment Unveiled: From isolation to mediation, meet Mahsa and Amina—two women rewriting the narrative of adversity. Their stories of resilience and empowerment shine a light on unity and transformation in Jibril, Herat.
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