Afghanaid forms and supports women's self-help groups across Afghanistan to help women come together, learn new skills and access economic opportunity. But what exactly are self-help groups and how do they work? Read on to find out more about their transformative power.

Forging connections, finding solutions

So, what precisely is a self-help group? The idea is simple: a group of 10-25 women come together weekly to save and launch their own small businesses, transforming the lives of women and girls through an innovative and culturally-sensitive solution to issues surrounding women's autonomy, agency and financial inclusion. 

From tailoring to poultry rearing, Afghanaid delivers a wide-range of vocational training to these groups, introducing rotating loans, as well as developing their literacy and numeracy skills, and marketing capacity. As women meet, they work together, support one another, and fuel each other to design and create the world they want to live in. For as we all know, that even in the darkest of times, we find solace, laughter and the strength to carry on in our most important resource of all: each other.

How do self-help groups support women?

1. Developing skills, fostering inclusion

Self-help groups are a great tool for improving women's economic and social engagement, especially in a context where women's access to education and employment is limited. By offering training opportunities in literacy, numeracy, bookkeeping, marketing and various vocations for self-help group members, Afghanaid enhances the skill sets of overlooked female community members. Facilitating women's inclusion leads to more prosperous, inclusive futures for all: skilled women can better support their children with their education, pass on their knowledge and skills to other family members and therefore create a more skilled, inclusive community workforce for many years to come.

2. Alleviating poverty

Self-help groups promote savings and credit initiatives which enable members to access financial capital and start income-generating activities, such as dressmaking or dairy processing. This helps combat poverty within the community by encouraging entrepreneurship, economic growth, better market linkages and more diverse livelihoods. Through increasing the number of household income streams, it also helps make families more resilient in crises and therefore less likely to slip back into poverty. By pooling group savings, the women also help increase their family's resilience, as this group's shared resource helps people to find solutions and recover when unforeseen costs and challenges come their way. 

3. Enhancing confidence and social cohesion

Self-help groups foster social cohesion and unity within the community. They provide a platform for members to interact, share experiences, and collectively address common challenges. With this newfound support network, female members are able to better find solutions and grow in confidence. Similarly, as income-earners for their families, they also earn respect, raising their status and enabling them to play a more active role in decision-making in their households and communities.

Afghanaid's history of forming and supporting self-help groups

We started forming women's self-help groups in the early 2000s, initially piloting this work through savings groups, where women supported the creation of each others' businesses with their accumulated capital. From 2005-2007, we supported over 150 groups of this nature, with a plethora of new livelihoods being created as a result. It was from this starting point that we began to develop further the structure of self-help groups in Afghanistan, by evaluating the complex needs of rural communities, and listening to women across various villages to learn how best these structures could work for them. In 2022 alone, we worked with over 225 self help groups. 

Our long standing history in remote communities has enabled us to continue this work despite deepening restrictions on women and NGO staff.

It starts with Amena

Since I started this, my life has improved so much.

One woman who has recently been supported to thrive by her self-help group is Amena, whose involvement in a group in Ghor province has enabled her to start her own profitable vegetable garden and micro business.

Read Amena's Story

Invest in the potential of a self-help group

Enabling women to take greater control of their and their families futures, be supported by other women, whilst sharing their knowledge, builds a brighter future for all. Please give what you can to ensure we can create as many self-help groups as possible, transforming the lives of thousands of women and their families:

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