Vocational Training Center for Afghan Women
Organization for Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities
Annual Report 2009
Project Location: Afshar District, Kabul
Donor: SAWA Australia
Beneficiaries: 300 women and young girls
Allocated Budget for 2009: US$32,481
Allocation Period: January 2009 until December 2009
Reporting Period: December 2009
When you visit the Vocational Training Center (VTC) you must first walk through the poorest district of Kabul, an area devastated by three decades of war, a neighborhood most noted for its number of widows. Turn down a side street and a kind gentleman opens the gate to the center, and you find yourself in the midst of a small compound bustling with activities. Even the courtyard garden is productive, with vegetables interspersed among the flowers.
The Center opened in the first week of March and the number of the students gradually increased to 67 on 1st April 2008, as the weather gets warmer in Kabul more women are expected to join in April.
OPAWC's Mission is "to improve the level of economic and social situation of the Afghan women and to establish peace and harmony in Afghanistan."
Since its inception as a registered NGO in 2003, OPAWC has striven to empower Afghan women from all perspectives including education and income-earning skills and has aimed to help them stand up for their rights. OPAWC believes that women will remain enslaved and oppressed if they themselves don’t go for achieving their rights. And this noble cause requires building up their potential and capabilities. For this reason, OPAWC's major activities for women were establishing literacy classes and training courses for thousands of Afghan women in the refugee camps in Pakistan as well as in many provinces in Afghanistan.
The Vocational Training Center in Kabul was the latest initiative by OPAWC to enhance women‘s capabilities. It was established in March 2008 and was initially planned to have classes for literacy education and vocational training such as handicrafts, but due to lack of funds only three literacy classes with 90 students were opened up. Fortunately at a later stage the Tuscany Region contributed funds to the Vocational Training Center, and as a result two sections were established on October 2008, one for tailoring and another for embroidery. As the time passed the number of students rose to 500 in various classes of Literacy Education and Handicraft Training Courses.
2. Project Description
The Vocational Training Center is located in Kabul City and comprises of two sections: Literacy Education and Handicraft Training Courses. Literacy Education has three female teachers; each teaching two shifts, and the total number of students comes to 300. All the students are female, women of 45 to 76 and young girls of 10 to 30; most of them are widows and orphans. The subjects taught in the Center are: Dari (Persian), Mathematics, Basic Information on Child Care and subjects on Health, Human Rights, Women's Rights, and Violence against Women. The Literacy Program was supposed to be for two years which comprised of 4 semesters, but according to the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan the time for literacy courses is nine months in one year, comprised of two semesters. Students have to pass the final exam to get permission to sit in the next class and after completing class three and having passed the final exam they receive the Merit Certificate of Literacy.
The Center opens at 9:00 o’clock in the morning and closes at 3:00 in the evening. The first shift starts at 9:00 and goes until 11:30 and the second shift starts at 1:00 and goes until 3:30. This schedule allows house wives to participate in the courses.
3. Demography/ Location of the Center
The Vocational Training Center was first located in Bagi Bala. The building did not have enough rooms to certify the course because the number of students increased day by day and we were in need of more rooms. We therefore started searching for a larger building. We wanted to help the most oppressed and forlorn women and girls, so we concentrated our search for a suitable building in the area of greatest need. The most needy area was the Afshar District, which had been the center of war in 1992 when Ahmad Shah Masood massacred the local population. Most people living in the district belong to the Hazara nation, and most of the women are widows and girls are orphans. The condition of the people in the district was even worse during the reign of the Taliban.
The photos show the general character of the area. We tried to find the best building in this area, but all the houses are destroyed and muddy which is not suitable.
Eventually we found a house near this area suitable for both Literacy Education and Handicraft Training. It has 9 rooms; 3 rooms are allocated for Literacy Education and 4 rooms are allocated for Handicraft Training. One room is a staff room and one room is for the house keeper, so it is completely suitable for Vocational Training Center.
Afshar district is located in the west of Kabul near the two famous universities Kabul Education University and Polytechnic University.
4. Literacy Education
OPAWC's Education Committee has prepared a complete syllabus for Literacy Education, which is for one year of two semesters. Within this period, the women are expected to have full command over reading and writing. In addition the women will be taught different subjects and topics which will help them in their daily lives.
The supervisor of the literacy course, who also teaches, reports on the progress of the course, the students and the increase in the number of the students day by day. This made us think that the student’s willingness is also important to keep this project running and this depends on how much they are satisfied with the center. So far, no report has reached us that any student has left the center because of some problem. This centre provides them with free education with excellent teachers and environment, and there is no reason why students should distance themselves from this center.
5. Handicraft Training Courses
These courses are mainly designed to empower women with income-earning skills like tailoring, embroidery, carpet-weaving, making wooden objects and other crafts. Two women experts have been hired to train women in these skills, and the students have been provided with the required tools and materials at the center so that they can learn and practice at the same time.
The main objectives for these training courses are to empower women with the skills that could help them to stand on their own feet in terms of earning an income. Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge for most of the women, particularly widows, is to feed their children; and since they are not skilled workers they cannot earn enough to run their family. The majority of the students are either housewives or unskilled workers like servant, cook and housekeeper, who paid less than $50 per month, while skilled women earn $200 - $300 per month.
6. Project Result
Nearly two years have gone by since the establishment of the Center, and the Literacy Course has been very successful, with the following outcomes:
To date, 300 women and girls are about to complete the nine months of Literacy Program this year. These students belong to three different classes and different levels:
- Class 1 are those women and girls with no previous reading ability who have started from the alphabet. After completion of the nine month course they are at the level to read and write, have acquired basic mathematics and learned some knowledge of science and sociology.
- Class 2 are those students (both women and girls) who had a basic literacy background from the course in this center in 2008; they are now at the level of class three of formal schools.
- Class 3 are those girls and women who were selected from the previous class of the literacy course of this center through a competitive examination, and also some new ones who joined this center with some literacy background. After those who had the ability to study in Class 3 had been selected, a class was established for them. These 66 students set their final examination at the end of 2009, and those who passed received the Merit Certificate at the end of the term. They have obtained the level to join class five or six of formal schooling.
7. Project Monitoring and Evaluation
In order to ensure the transparency of the project, OPAWC‘s Project Committee has the responsibilities to keep an eye on its activities. The project coordinator monitors and supervises all activities of the project. She visits the center five times a week, checks and monitors the studies. Every Saturday she holds a meeting with all staff and discusses the problems of the center. It is a sort of evaluation, where each teacher has to report on her class and on the students' progress. The teachers must show that they comply with the standards set for them by the coordinator. They keep a long sheet, in which they write the lessons they teach every day.
The coordinator has to report back the progress and the problems about the center to OPAWC‘s Project Committee, which is the main decision body. The Committee discusses serious issues and suggestions presented by the coordinator and formulates the Center's plan accordingly.
8. Function of Graduation
In 2009 we were successful to have a marvelous function of graduation for the second time. It was held on Wednesday 30 December.
About five guests from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of women attended the function. They appreciated our work and were happy to see all the activities going well, and the function was also mentioned in a radio broadcast. Students were happy while getting two certificates, one from OPAWC and another one from the Ministry of Education; by getting these certificate they can attend the formal schools. The number of students who graduated was 66; from these 66 students we selected some for performing the drama, poem, and a song, so they are able to do everything now.
9. Project Sustainability
The project depends on a number of factors, which includes the availability of funds, a commitment from the implementing agency to keep it running, and the students' willingness to attend the courses.
Availability of the funds directly relates to the donors' commitments and subsequently to the response and feedback they get from the implementing agency, as long as the funds get through the project will be functioning.
The commitment of the implementing agency also affects the sustainability of this project. OPAWC, which manages and coordinates all the activities of the project, has committed itself to keep this project running because of its high importance, keeping in mind OPAWC's mission to empower women through making them educated and also helping them to earn a living and stand on their own feed. This course clearly serves this purpose.
The willingness of the students to attend the courses is also important to keep this project running, and this depends on how much they are satisfied with this center. So far, we have not received any complaint or any reports that the students wanted to distance themselves from this course. The Center provides them with free education from excellent instructors in a most supportive environment, and there is not reason why students should leave the center.
10. 2010 and beyond
March of 2010 will mark an auspicious starting point, as the spring of a new decade of hope for a significant population of women, who would otherwise be under the thumb of destitution.
OPAWC's aim is to empower women in all the fields of life, to give them help and prevent them from oppressed but to keep them on their own feet and self-determination.
In the field of literacy Education we hope to extend the classes so that there are two or three classes of each section. We also hope to be able to arrange some other courses that have been requested by students, like an English course and beauty parlour training, which brings a good income and further education.
In the field of Handicrafts we hope to extend it to a system of production in order to help the trained women to earn their living. We hope that we can find a way of good marketing by accumulating orders from different regions. OPAWC orphanages are supported by over 300 sponsors from such countries as Japan, Australia, Italy, Germany, England, Canada and the U.S., areas of affluence with a strong interest in philanthropy. If only half the sponsors distributed catalogues to just one outlet each in their home communities, marketing would take on a life of its own. The cycle doesn’t stop here; every shop that participates in the program will undoubtedly display information about the VTC and orphanages. Many customers coming through these shops might eventually become sponsors for the orphans.
This plan will come into existence in the future; at the moment we'll see what we can do in the coming year. There is a long-term need, a work force, a market and an unflappable combination of ideas and practical sensibility. The concept of building a society through empowerment of its most eager yet ignored population, handcuffed by poverty and inequality (especially women) has been proven all over the world to be the key to prosperity through sustainability and peace. So, all that the women of Afshur District need is a door to walk through, and we are the ones who could help them and open the door and let them walk through it.
11. Some Products of the Vocational Training Center