Vocational Training Center for Afghan Women
Organization for Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities
Report on a visit to the centre
April 2010, from SAWAN 27 of May 2010 and the Annual Report for 2009/10
A report by SAWA convener Matthias Tomczak
Following my visit to Hewad High School I travelled from Rawalpindi to Kabul to meet Latifa, the director of the Vocational Training Centre, and see how the Centre operates. In the two years since March 2008, when the Centre was established through SAWA's initiative, it has grown beyond all expectations. It is now housed in two buildings. The Literacy Program, which is funded by SAWA, had just moved into a new building three days before I arrived. The paint was still fresh, and some furniture was still missing. School principal Adila and teacher Fahima are still there. Three literacy classes were in session.
The change in atmosphere from my last visit in October 2008 was remarkable. 18 months ago the first group of women went through their one-year course; all were shy and insecure, and Adila could not coach them into speaking to me; she had to tell me about their backgrounds and motivations herself. This time all students were bright and cheerful, and several women volunteered to tell me how they had come to attend the course.
The Handicraft Program is only a few blocks away. Rakia, who used to teach in the literacy course, is its financial and organizational manager. The program is funded by an Italian aid organization and offers courses in tailoring, hand embroidery, machine embroidery and bead working. It has an excellent display room, and the products are of excellent quality. When women have finished their training they can produce garments on their own accord or sell their work to the Centre. The Centre has just joined the Federation of Afghan Business Women, which will enable them to exhibit at trade fairs.
The reason why OPAWC moved the literacy course was that after having trained some 300 women over two years, Adila could not find any more women in the suburb who wanted or were allowed to enrol, so the Centre was moved to another suburb. The plan is to move the Centre every two years, slowly covering more and more suburbs. Adila described again how hard it is to convince families to send their women to the course. Often she invites mothers to sit in for a few days and see for themselves that the presence of women without head scarves does not mean that the Centre is a way to hell.
The handicraft centre, which has well equipped work rooms and an excellent showroom, will stay in the same place. Not all women who finish the literacy course are prepared to walk the long distance to the handicraft centre, but many do it. The teachers, of course, have longer and longer ways to get to work, which shows how dedicated they are.
Sometimes women ask to be admitted to the handicraft course. OPAWC's policy is not to allow any woman to enter the course before she completes the literacy course.
Some of the products made in the handicraft section of the Centre