Investing in the future of Afghanistan by increasing abilities of its youth

To give young women and men the chance to escape from a chronic cycle of poverty, World Vision Afghanistan educates and empowers youth to earn an income, equipping them to provide for their families (current or future) through the Youth Economic Livelihoods & Literacy (YELL) project, funded by World Vision Australia.

Since October 2012, 800 youth (725 women and 75 men) have been participated in life and vocation skills training, improved their marketing abilities and joined literacy classes, which enable them to stand on their own feet and have their own business.

Decades of war in Afghanistan have left a generation of youth largely uneducated and unable to contribute to society. Their difficult situation is often compounded by social isolation, which frequently leads to a lack of self-esteem, financial dependence on their family and disempowerment; not being able to participate in decision-making processes in their communities.

To address the needs of Afghan youth who have had difficulties accessing or completing the formal school system, which is crucial to the development of Afghanistan, the Youth Economic Livelihoods & Literacy (YELL) project, funded by World Vision Australia provides youth with an opportunity for non-formal education to acquire literacy and numeracy skills, practical knowledge  and employable skills, such as tailoring, embroidery, beading and mobile phone repair service. This non-formal education enables youth to work more productively, to gain greater self-confidence and to become more involved in group decision making.

This project targets youth, primarily young women but also men, between the ages of 15 and 30 in the four districts of Badghis province.

The following criteria applies in selecting project participants:

  •         Illiterate youth between the ages between 15 and 30 who do not have access to school due to cultural and economic constraints and who have little to no economic opportunities.
  •        Beneficiaries who scored highly in literacy exams and are interested in further study to become a literacy teacher and who are supported by their communities.

Gholam Rasol, 22, is one those youth who participated in the first mobile phone repairing course conducted by World Vision’s YELL project.

The poor economic conditions of his family didn’t allow him to study beyond tenth grade at which point he had to stop going school in order to work with his father on the farm. He didn’t know any other business except farming. When he heard from his classmates that a group from World Vision staff were registering youth between the ages of 15 and 30 in mobile phone repair class, he was instantly interested. “If I learned mobile repairing then I could be independent [and] I could open my own mobile shop in the market,” said Gholam, with visible self-confidence.

“I participated in an eight-month mobile training [course],” explains Gholam. “After the end of class, I received some equipment from World Vision that enabled me to open a mobile repair shop. As I didn’t have [much money] to invest in my shop, for the first few months I just repaired the phones people brought to me. Now, with the money I earned from mobile repairs I am able to buy different types of phones and some [basic] mobile phone supplies [which I also sell],” explained Gholam.

Today, in addition to supporting his father with the family’s daily expenses Gholam is able to save some money for his future too.

“With the money that I am saving through my mobile repair..."

“With the money that I am saving through my mobile repair [shop] I wish to continue my education. I want to go to the university,” said Gholam, with a smiled.

In addition to mobile repairing for young boys, the project offers literacy programmes and classes in tailoring, embroidery, and beading for women. Literacy enhances the well-being and health, helps youth in general and women in particular to participate in the economic, political and social life of their communities and thus reach their full potential.

Masoma, 17, is a girl with congenital hearing and speech problem who participated in the embroidery class last year. She graduated six months ago and already has a lot of orders from her relatives and neighbours for embroidering. Because of her disability, she couldn’t go to school and was, instead, responsible for caring for her sisters and brothers and helping her mother at home.

 “When I heard about the embroidery course from our neighbour, I was eager to register myself in these classes,” said Aziza, 36, Masoma’s mother.

 “Aziza came to me for registration holding a small baby, I told her that it would be difficult for her to participate in the classes with her baby and suggested that if she had a daughter older than 15 she can register her in the classes,” recalls Shafiqa, a World Vision embroidery teacher.

" I got really sad and disappointed and told..."

“When Shafiqa suggested I register Masoma in the classes, I got really sad and disappointed and told her that my daughter is deaf and speechless and she can’t come,” explained Aziza.

“As soon as I heard that she has a disabled daughter I requested her to bring her daughter to visit. The next day, when I saw Masoma, I found her a shy girl with low self-confidence who only looked at the floor,” remembers Shafiqa. “I called the YELL project manager and explained Masoma’s condition. He encouraged me to enrol Masoma to the classes.”

“I couldn’t believe that Masoma could go to the class,” admitted Aziza. “She was an shy girl who never went outside without me.”

Masoma proved herself to be a good student. “She is a very smart girl,” said Shafiqa. “She learned very fast, even faster that those who weren’t disabled. During the first days of classes, she sat in the corner of the class and at the end of class immediately went home. Gradually, she became friends with all her classmates and I easily could see the changes in Masoma’s behaviour. At the end of class, she and her classmates went to the yard and played with water and I heard Masoma laugh.”

Today, Masoma isn’t only responsible for taking care of her sisters and brothers, she is also an independent girl who can help support her family financially.        

“I am really happy. Masoma has changed completely,” said Aziza.  “[She has] gained more self-confidence and financial resources by attending the training. I was always worried about what would be happen to Masoma if she were to lose her father and me,” admits her mother. “Now, I feel comfortable. She bought clothes and shoes for herself from her first income and from the second [she bought clothes and shoes] for [her] sisters and brothers.” 

“I can’t express my feelings through words..."

“I can’t express my feelings through words, but I hope you and those who conducted these programmes for the poor and those in need experience success in all aspect of your lives and Allah blesses all of you,” added Masoma’s mother, as she raised her hand to pray for World Vision staff, with tears visible in her eyes.

 Vocational training for youth gives them a stronger position within society by allowing them to be contributing members of their households.  Training youth in vocational skills gives them a stronger shock absorber against the impact of poverty and helps them cope with the increasing impact of drought and hardship by reducing their dependence on agriculture as a sole source of income. 

Supporting young women in particular to help provide for their children will have a long and lasting impact on the health of their communities as their children will grow up healthier and better educated, and due to the close nature of Afghan families, will generally also learn the skills that their mothers are acquiring, giving them means of income and reducing their vulnerability in the future.