Over the past two years, rising food and fuel prices, growing unemployment and increasing restrictions on women's freedoms have meant that many families across Afghanistan are struggling to make ends meet. As a result, at least four out of five households have experienced income reduction and taken on debt. With the ongoing humanitarian crisis showing few signs of abating, extreme debt leaves families unable to rebuild their lives and extremely vulnerable to future challenges. 

What is the solution?

At Afghanaid, we know that in times of crisis, we rely on family and friends to help us get by, offering solace, resilience and hope in times of need. We also know that Afghan women are often overlooked, and so supporting them to strengthen their income-earning abilities is an effective solution that helps bolster their family’s sustainable source of income whilst helping women gain confidence and respect in their communities.

That's why we form women's self-help groups: we support groups of 10-25 women to come together weekly to undertake vocational skills training, accumulate group savings, loan each other money, and launch their own small businesses. By recognising the transformative nature of the bond female communities share, and tapping into women's unfulfilled potential, we can help women lift their families out of debt, start building for the future and become the change-makers they have always had the power to be.

Amena and her flourishing home garden

Living in a remote village in Ghor province, there have always been limited ways for Amena to earn an income. As a result, her family had been really struggling to make ends meet. So, when Afghanaid came to her village, Amena jumped at the opportunity to join a self-help group and start her own kitchen garden.

Supported by Afghanaid and the newly formed group of women around her, Amena learnt how to create her own kitchen garden. "I was trained by Afghanaid in vegetable cultivation for six months," Amena told us, "Vegetables like cucumber, tomato, cabbage, onion, chives, carrot and zucchini."

Amena also enrolled in a training course to improve her knowledge on how best to look after her garden, utilising fertilisers when needed and monitoring plant health to ensure her plants are as productive as possible, as well as being supplied with all the gardening tools she required. “When vegetables become dry, we water them. When the plants are too weak or small, we add fertilisers."

Now, Amena is not only improving the nutrition of her family, but has also set up a micro-business, selling surplus produce at the local market for a vital additional household income. She has also been able to sell homemade jams and chutneys using the vegetables from her garden.

"When the cultivation season arrives, we clean, wash and pack chives, radish, onion and lettuce. We take them to the market and sell them. We also make pickles, and we make ketchup out of the tomatoes and jam out of the carrots."

This way, we can cover some of our expenses. Since I started this, my life has improved so much.

Equipped with invaluable new skills such in gardening, sauce-making and small business management, and now able take loans from her group to purchase seeds and to afford transportation to the market, Amena has all the tools she needs to help her family rebuild. With food insecurity widespread across Afghanistan, currently 9 in 10 households are not eating enough day-to-day, making Amena’s ability to provide an income for her family vital in lessening pressure on overstretched male family members and allowing communities as a whole to feel more positive about the years to come.

Amena’s husband, a local religious leader, enthused about the positive influence these groups are having on their community, both in terms of improving economic conditions, but also raising women’s confidence. "[Afghanaid] conducted training workshops in villages and trained women and girls in order to improve their livelihoods. It has been quite effective. The livelihoods of households have improved." 

Women have become confident thinking that as a citizen: I can, I am also a person, I also have a personality, I am also important, I also feel responsible about my family, my house, my homeland and my country.

"It has given [her] confidence - this is one side of the story. The other side is that with the money she has earned, she has brought chicken and prepared a meal for the family in the evening. The jam, tomato ketchup or vegetables that are added to the table bring changes to the table."

Zahra, a member of Amena's SHG, reflected on why the group is so important to them, “As you know, Afghanistan is going through a lot of changes and especially women face a lot of challenges. When we get together, we learn about each other’s situations, problems and troubles. This is very important because a person cannot solve their problems alone. But when you share them with another woman, she can give you better advice.”

With Amena now financially stable, she can lend her support to other women struggling in the village, enabling them to rewrite their future as she did. By investing their knowledge, advice and finances back into their community, Amena's self-help group can become instrumental in revitalising her remote area, unlocking the potential of other strong, resilient women, men and children.

How you can help

This summer, you can transform the lives of more women like Amena, creating a positive ripple effect that will be felt for decades to come. By helping us establish self help groups across rural Afghanistan that allow women to come together, share knowledge, access training and tools that help them diversify their families’ sources of income and invest in the potential of other women in their circle, you are ensuring that more women across Afghanistan can play a more active role in shaping the future of their communities. 

Despite living in one of the most challenging places in the world, Afghan women can change the futures of their communities - but they need your help: 

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