Vocational Training Centre for Afghan Women
Organization for Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities
Annual Report 2016
Project Title: Vocational Training Centre for Women
Project Location: Da Araban Gharga Afshar District, Kabul
Donor: SAWA-Australia (SA) and other supporters
Project Title: VTC (Literary Section)
Beneficiaries:300 women and young girls
Allocated Budget for 2016: US$39,150
Allocation Period: January 2016 until December 2016
Reporting Date: February 2017
OPAWC is proud to have national and international support to continue its activities in support of women finding their position in the community. OPAWC expresses its deepest thanks to all supporters of the Vocational Training Centre. Your support lightens the way and lives of the poor and miserable women of Afghanistan.
Afshar District is one of the poorest areas in Kabul city, where warlords are still in power. With the help of OPAWC Centres this area is undergoing changes in the lives of its people.
OPAWC has been working in this area continuously since 2008, supported by SAWA-Australia, to help people come out of their misery and determine their destiny themselves. Since 2010 the people have been supported through two Centres, the Handicraft Centre and the Literacy Centre. While the Handicraft Centre, which is supported by the Italian non-profit organisation COSPE, has remained at its initial location, the Literacy Centre is moved to a different suburb every two years to reach the largest number of women in need. Having covered the suburbs Spin Kalay, Galay Gernail and Bala Koh in the past, the Literacy Centre was moved to Gharga Da Araban, another district of Afshar, in 2016.
Gharga Da Araban is under the control of warlords, particularly Abdul Rasul Sayyaf Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, ia fundamentalist warlord of the Wahhabi faith with close connections to the Saudi king family, and his commanders. OPAWC selected the area because there is no schools and no courses and a strong need to offer literacy courses was felt in this area.
Our staff did a survey and registered 500 women. Of these, 260 women joined OPAWC's classes, while the others have not been allowed to come to the Centre. It takes time to gain the trust of the people through the testimony of our work. We are trying to visit the women’s houses and convince their families, especially the male members of the family, to allow their women to come to the Centre.
The activities in OPAWC's Centres are going well in accordance with the agreed plan.
Function of Graduation
The tenth graduation celebration of women from OPAWC's Vocational Training Centre was delayed because in mid-2016 the new Minister of Education had put all contracts with NGOs on hold, including the contract with OPAWC. The function was finally held on Monday 23 January 2017, just three weeks after the end of the 2016 reporting period. Merit and Completion Certificates were given to 182 students who had come to these centres accepting all risks and difficulties to finish their literacy and skill programs.
The day was a very special day for our students, who had learned thousands of new things, thus making changes to their lives, turning from beggars to confident women. They celebrated their graduation with enthusiasm.
Most of the students who had learned literacy and handicrafts skills in OPAWC's Training Centres participated in the program, but more importantly the women prepared and handled the entire event themselves and provided a most interesting program, which is a great achievement for OPAWC.
The program covered different topics, including a speech by OPAWC executive director Latifa Ahmady, who gave brief but important information about the current situation of women in Afghanistan and the importance of learning for the women.
OPAWC supporter Silvia Riccheri gave a wonderful speech about the struggle of women in this difficult situation in Afghanistan, accepting all risks to try and stand on their own feet. She was happy to see OPAWC's achievements and praised OPAWC for its hard work in this critical situation.
OPAWC students performed two songs, Zanan Bar Pa (Women Arisen) and Toloyi Aftab (Arisen of the Sun). Several guests gave speeches, among them General Saber Aryan from the 5th department of the security police, Marukh Usifzai the head of social coordination of the Women's Ministry, and Mr Zafari the representative of the Literacy Department of the Ministry of Education. All speakers praised OPAWC and gave it high scores for its work.
The young band of Melodi played wonderfully on sitar, and one of their friends sang a song for women on this special day.
A great poem was performed by a woman who had a wonderful voice and impressed the audience with her spirited performance.
A woman and mother reported the story of her life, recalling the worst moments of her life before saying that now OPAWC is changing her life, opening a new world for her. Her story was very painful, but she is feeling happy now because she can work and send her children to school and provide her daily expenses. She presented her story herself, and after her presentation OPAWC had a small gift for her.
At the end of the program we had a wonderful drama based on real life events, the painful story of one of the many thousand women of our country. It had a great message for the audience and our other students how to struggle against difficulties and stand on one's own feet in life.
After finishing the program we had lunch for our guests and tea with cake and cookies for our students. This was the best program in the history of OPAWC graduations and a great opportunity for our students to gain experience for the next program in which they are to participate.
Computer and English Classes
Knowledge of English is essential for anyone who aims to join the work force, where computer literacy is often required as well.There is a strong interest in computer and English classes in Gharga Da Araban. We have had English and Computer classes in the Handicraft Centre for many years; these classes continue. In Gharga Da Araban we have been able to establish an English class in the Literacy Centre for 60 women in two shifts but not a computer class yet. We are in search of funding to establish a computer lab for these women attending the Literacy classes too.
The students who are attending the English and Computer classes are happy to have access to these courses. They have learnt the office program and are able to work by themselves on a computer. They told their teacher that they are able to teach others the things they have learned in the Centre. As soon as they finished their primary education in English and Computer; they will be trained on how to use online websites and how to upload a document. They are waiting enthusiastically to start this activity.
Regular meetings held in relation to the Vocational Training Centre
OPAWC holds meetings with all its staff once a month. In this meeting one member is selected to work as mediator and writer, whose responsibility is to write down all the issues. Each member gives brief information about her/his class or activity. What has been done, what ha s not been done, what is the progress, and what are the problems they face?
The aim of these meetings is to be informed of all activities in a transparent way and where problems arise to search better ways for better implementation of the project.
At the end of every meeting all agree on the main issues that were discussed and put their signatures at the bottom of the minutes.
Women committee meetings
Women committees in women Centres are active and holding their meetings regularly every 15 days. The committee in the Gharga Da Araban Literacy Centre has been established, and a number of women joined it. A divorce case is the first issue tackled by the committee. It has been introduced to HAWCA, the Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, who is working on it.
Although the women committee in Gharga Da Araban has been established only recently, significant changes have already been observed in the ways and attitudes of the women in the committee. They are progressing day by day and are capable of solving the cases of family violence in their own families and those of their neighbors. They are happy to see changes in their lives and to have found the ability to help others.
Training sessions held by HAWCA in OPAWC centres
OPAWC's partner HAWCA visited OPAWC's new center in Gharga Da Araban after its opening, introduced itself and talked with the women about issues of concern. HAWCA plans to offer training for the women who are in most need of such programs and will will implement it very soon.
Several training sessions run by members of HAWCA were held in OPAWC centres on various issues of the training including Articles of EVAW (Law of Elimination of Violence against Women), the Law of Marriage, Child harassment and others. The women participated with interest in these sessions.
Celebration of International Women's Day
March 8, the International Women’s Day, is the day that reminds us of the struggle of the brave and fearless women who fought for achieving equal rights for women and sacrificed their precious lives. It is the duty of all democratic and freedom loving women and men to get together and re-commit themselves to continue on their path and to receive inspiration from the blood of those heroic women of women's history.
OPAWC celebrates this day every year in order to express the importance of this day, to make the women in OPAWC's Centres aware of the struggle of women and sacrifices in the past, and at the same time to offer an opportunity for refreshment for the women.
In 2016 OPAWC commemorated International Women’s Day at a time when, unfortunately, every day witnesses murder, rape, mutilation and abuse of women in our country by those who have the support of powerful criminals. At the same time, we are witness to the fact that the murderers of Farkhunda and Rukhshana are still not punished.
The function in the Vocational Training Centre was attended by a huge group of women from OPAWC and also other women's institutions. There were songs and poems that reveal the pains of the women. The students took an active part with interest and presented a theater play that showed the real condition of the country, in particular for women.
Mr Maroof Rayan, the Administrative Director of OPAWC, talked in detail about the history of International Women's Day and the struggle of the women around the world in different periods. Rayan encouraged the women to take part and struggle for their rights themselves, he said that history has shown us that in no country women attained their rights through the bombs, cannons and guns of occupiers or outside forces. He emphasized that rights are taken not given.
The function ended with a moving song by the students of the Centre.
Celebration of International Teacher’s Day
Celebrating the great step made for teachers on 5 October 2016.
International Teacher's Day is celebrated on5 October every year. In Afghanistan it is celebrated in every state institution, but unfortunately all these celebrations are just symbolic and staged.
OPAWC celebrated International Teacher Day in both sections of the Vocational Training Centre. This program included a varity of themes with speeches, poems about Teacher’s Day in different languages and at the end gifts for teachers by OPAWC staff. Latifa Ahmady the Director of OPAWC gave a speech regarding the importance of education and the role of teachers in the society. She concluded by saying "It is a great time to see your beaming and cheerful faces in this difficult time. I am very delighted to see your interest and respect for your teachers and your education". Ahmady encouraged the students to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities they have in order to reduce the rate of violence they faced daily.
At the end of the program OPAWC thanked all the teachers and instructors for their honesty and hard work by presenting them with small gifts. The students wore national and colorful clothes, presented flowers to their teachers and were very happy.
Breast and Ovarian Cancer workshop
On 23 August 2016 a one day workshop was held for OPAWC students in the campus of the Vocational Training Centre. The aim of the workshop was to raise awareness about the prevention of breast and ovarian cancer. The workshop was presented by 16 year old Farida, who talked about the causes of breast cancer and the ways of preventing this disease, and attended by around 60 women who were all the students of OPAWC.
Following the presentation a dialogue session took place in which the participants raised their specific questions about breast and ovarian cancer. All took an active part in the discussions.
Such workshops are arranged because about 1.7 million of women are affected by this disease and 27 thousand of them die in the world every year due to lack of knowledge of this disease. OPAWC is trying to help the women know the dangerous illnesses and to prevent it on time. The participants appreciated OPAWC’s initiative to organize awareness sessions on important issues related to their health and asked OPAWC to organize more sessions of of this kind.
Advancement of women to Higher Education
Some women were interested to continue their education in higher classes; OPAWC introduced them with honour through a formal letter to the higher school. This is a good achievement for OPAWC; the women passed their exam with excellent grades.
Training on food processing
OPAWC ran a six months training course for women how to prepare various types of food and how to find markets for their products. Women participated with interest and have learned to produce different kinds of food. Some women now make bolany (bead with some potato) and sauce, which the male members of their families sell outside.
OPAWC’s aim for these trainings is to help the women to stand on their own feet financially. At the end of the program OPAWC distributed the initial equipment to the women in order to help them to make food in their houses.
Victims of massive explosion
In July a massive explosion happened in Kabul during a huge demonstration of people who demanded electricity for their homes. Unfortunately this time there were also victims among OPAWC staff and students. Handicraft teacher Basira lost her uncle with two sons, and her brother is seriously injured; he is still in hospital. Literacy teacher Adela lost her brother in law, and her cousin is injured. Members of the family of tailoring teacher Freshta were injured; some are still in hospital, some are at home. Literacy teacher Rakia lost her brother in law and uncle. Literacy student Nabila lost her brother, handicraft student Shafiqa three members of her family, and three members of her family are seriously injured and in hospital. Most of the Afshar students were busy with funeral procedures. The incident is very painful for all of us.
Recent OPAWC activities and participation in different workshops
OPAWC participated in the following workshops and conferences:
Inauguration Ceremony of HWPL Advocacy Committee & Peace Dialogue in Afghanistan
OPAWC participated in the inauguration ceremony of the HWPL Advocacy Committee and Peace Dialogue arranged by the International Women's Peace Group (IWPG) of South Korea, the International Peace Youth Group (IPYG) and Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) on 27 March 2016 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The event started with a welcoming and introduction speech by members of HWPL, followed by video messages and introduction of HWPL by the member of IWPG. Speakers from all three institutions including OPAWC then presented their views on the issue of renouncing war and having peace in the world. Each speaker put forward their own views but the most important points, that were very much appreciated by all participants of the event as well as members of IWPG and IPYG in South Korea who were watching the program live on Skype, were made by OPAWC. The main points raised by OPAWC representative Latifa Ahmady were:
"We cannot have peace and war at the same time. On one side war is supported, while on the other side the issue of peace is being discussed. The latest explosion in Brussels, Belgium, in the heart of Europe few kilometers from the NATO center, is enough to understand how much the war and terrorism have expanded in the world. Nowadays the countries that were and are involved in supporting the terrorism and war are attacked by their companions."
"The need for peace is most felt by those who are living in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq etc who are victims on a daily basis and in any contexts. We know that the current war has brought disasters for 99% of the world population and profit for only1%. So it is the duty of all peace loving nations of the world to work together and expound the bad effects of war and to put pressure on their governments to stop the selling and buying of weapons for war in peace loving countries, to stop supporting criminals and terrorism in the world, to stop all financial support for government fools in wars such as the war in Afghanistan. Those governments that really want to have peace and harmony in the world should support those institutions that are really working for humanity, equality and justice; they should criticize the warmongers and should put pressure on their governments to stop interfering in the destiny of the world's nations.”
Ahmady talked about several other issues as well. She mentioned the example of Korea and that it was the war and interference of other countries that split Korea into two, and nowadays the two parts stand against each other, while a united Korea could be a powerful and most developed country in our world.
The event ended with a video on International Law on abstaining from war and achieving peace, the signing of a joint document and group photos.
Meeting with LEAD
OPAWC had a meeting with Homa Usmany, the Executive Director of LEAD (Leading Entrepreneurs for Afghanistan’s Development). Several issues were discussed at the meeting. LEAD asked OPAWC to cooperate with the organisation and introduced business women who face problems in the four provinces that LEAD has offices: Kabul, Mazar-Sharif, Nangerhar and Herat. In return LEAD will provide training for OPAWC students in different fields as required. OPAWC has provided a list of women for LEAD and is waiting for their call.
World Literacy Day
OPAWC members participated in the World Literacy Day event that was held on 5 September 2016. This event was celebrated by the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (ACKU) and attended by high ranking member of educational institutions including the Director of Kabul University, the Deputy of Literacy and representatives of different institutions including OPAWC.
Dr. Sardar Mohammad Rahimi, the Deputy of Literacy, was not satisfied with the progress of education in the country. He said: "Around 850-900 schools are completely closed in the country due to insecurity and war, and those schools that are operating are also facing obstacles and their teaching is not satisfactory. In general the quality of education in both schools and courses is low and we are not satisfied with the achieved result.” He concluded: "From Hamed Karzay’s period till now the literacy department along with its national and international partners has educated around 40% but 60% of citizens remain illiterate due to insecurity and poverty in the country. Only one per cent of the total budget of the Ministry of Education is allocated to the Literacy Section.”
OPAWC believes that the level of illiteracy in the country is higher than the percentage given by the Deputy of Literacy. OPAWC is happy to always receives a very high score in relation to educating women. OPAWC works honestly in this field, accepts all risks and promises to continue its reliable working in education in this war-torn country.
International Peace Day in Kabul
International Peace Day is observed every 21 September to promote peace and stop war and bloodshed across the world. In Afghanistan International Peace Day is celebrated through holding traditional gatherings, events and sport competitions throughout the country by civil society entities and social groups and governmental institutions. OPAWC participated in the International Peace Day gathering held by Afghan Women's Network (AFN) with collaboration of the Ministry of Women Affairs and the presence of high ranking members of the government and civil society organizations including OPAWC, under the slogan: "Peace is the messenger of Hope and Development".
Several discussions took place about activities and commitment for establishing peace. Participants talked about the dire consequences of conflict, the desperate need for durable peace and their necessary role, as individuals, in laying the foundations for a conflict-free Afghan society. The focus was on instability and war that causes unemployment, weakens the education system and leads to increased corruption, criminal acts and abductions.
The gathering not only focused on peace and development, but also on the issue of women’s participation in the peace councils. The government should draw more attention to this issue, as it is important for achieving durable peace, reconciliation and development.
OPAWC believes that achieving peace and a peaceful Afghanistan through agreements with warlords and criminals is a dream. Peace is what every Afghan needs, especially the women and children who are suffering from the savage consequences of war. Peace can only be achieved by enhancing our knowledge and recognizing our friends and enemies.