Vocational Training Center for Afghan Women
Organization for Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities
Annual Report 2010
date of writing of the report: January 2011
The Vocational Training Center (VTC) is on the road of progress. Today we want to congratulate all our supporters and report that the VTC graduated 250 students after completion of the Literacy Program. Some of them now joined the formal school system while others became Literacy Teachers at their houses and teach their children. All are happy and can observe positive changes in their lives. At the moment around 150 students are studying in different classes at the Center.
One year has passed since the Literacy Section moved from its initial location to a new place called Spin Kalay intersection, from where OPAWC received many requests from women. The move of the Literacy Course was successful and had excellent results. This report describes the major activities and outcomes.
As mentioned above the Literacy Section moved to a new area, due to the need of the women of that area and requests we received from them. The area is called Spin Kalay. It is near Afshur, the previous location. Spin Kalay is an area where the warlord Sayaf lives along with his commanders, so working in Spin Kalay is very hard. Several times they created problems for the Center, as they went to the mosques and made propaganda and asked the men of the area not to let their wives or sisters or women of their houses attend the Literacy Course; they told the men: "The people who arrange such activities want your women to leave you and join the political parties, that they show bad ways to your women." We lost many of our students as a result of such propaganda. Many women came to us and asked us: "Please come to our house and talk with our men to let us come to the course." OPAWC teachers went to many houses. After talking to their men some of them agreed to let their women come to the literacy course, but others abused the teachers and asked them to leave their house. So this is the condition under which OPAWC is struggling to achieve its goals to empower women.
Acceptance and Assessment of New Students
At the beginning of the first term of the course the teachers surveyed the households of Spin Kalay for two weeks, accepting every risk. They were able to gather more than 120 students in our literacy classes, mostly women deprived of education during their young ages. After completion of registration the teachers took an intermediate examination of the newly registered students and divided them into three different classes according to their different levels:
- Class One are those women and girls who have started from alphabets, and after completion of 9 months, they are at the level to read and write and have acquired basic mathematics and learned some knowledge of science and sociology.
- Class Two are those students (both women and girls) who are old students of the Center and continue the remaining part of the literacy program of 2009 and some new ones who have a basic literacy background, have the ability and are at class three level of formal schools.
- Class Three are girls and women selected from new students of Class Two who are particularly intelligent and passed the intermediate examination. Some of the students of 2009 also joined this class.
Promotion Party for Students
OPAWC held a small party to encourage those students who progressed from second to third grade; this was arranged with several goals in mind:
Firstly, to celebrate Literacy Week, using the money we received from our Australian sister Stella Watson in a good way, by bringing some rejuvenation to the process of study and encouraging the students so that they are motivated to attend the Literacy Course.
Secondly , to create positive competition between students of different classes and to enhance their level of education and raise their knowledge.
Thirdly, to show the warlords that OPAWC is not weak or afraid of their threats and their forces and to show them that we are successful in our struggle.
The Party was held on 26th of September 2010, attended by more than 150 students. A guest from the Literacy Section of the Ministry of Education and OPAWC staff were also present.
The party was opened with some Verses of the Quran. This was followed by a speech given by the representative of the Ministry about Literacy Week and the main speech, given by instructor Fatima, about the importance of education and its values. Fatima encouraged the students not to stay back from the line of progress and told them how she went to the mosque to fight with the Mullahs as they created problems for them. The speech was liked by all, and they were smiling and clapping admiring her braveness.
The speeches were followed by a wonderful debate competition among students of different classes. Firstly the teachers made a questionnaire of 50 questions of different subjects, which they gave to all students one week before the party to get ready for the debate. Than they selected eight among them and divided them into group A and group B. On the day of the party they selected eight questions for the debate and divided the students into two groups. The debate started and it was wonderful and the two teachers made it even more attractive by asking the students of the groups some additional questions; those who answered them correctly received a present and their group received extra points. The result was excellent; both group received the same scores and some presents were giving to both groups. They were happy and laughing.
Following the debate the guest from the Ministry congratulated OPAWC for its hard work and meaningful activities to improve the lives of women. He said that OPAWC got the highest score of all NGOs working in this field. He praised the students and encouraged them to come to their classes regularly.
At the end of the Party the guest and students were invited to tea and cake.
Some photos from the Party
OPAWC graduated 100 students from both sections of the Training Centre (Literacy and Handicrafts) on 27th of January 2011. The function was supposed to be held in November 2010 but was delayed due to problems created by concurrent political events.
Highly ranked members of several Ministries such as the Ministries of Education, Economy and others were present. Mr. Jam, head of NGOs in Afghanistan, gave a speech and praised OPAWC for its good work and said that OPAWC is one of the best NGOs among those that work regularly and do what they say they do. He promised to support OPAWC in any way he can.
The agenda was made up of speeches, songs, a marvelous theatre performance and the distribution of certificates to 100 students. The theatre play described the real condition of an Afghan woman, whose husband is addicted to drugs and left her with children and no income. After passing several difficulties she receives an education and becomes a good tailor. At the end her husband comes home and promises his wife not to take drugs any more and to work together to have a happy family.
The students were happy to receive good results for their hard work. Their representative talked for a few minutes addressing the guests: “We want books to study, we want security to go to school, we want sources to help us like OPAWC does. We don’t want a car, we don’t want a house from you, so to ask you these questions is our right because we learnt to ask for our rights.” Most of the guests and the parents who participated started crying and promised the students to help them in any way they can.
Some photos from the graduation
Handicraft Training Courses
(The Handicraft section of the Vocational Training Centre is not part of the project supported by SAWA. It is supported by an Italian NGO. A brief report on the section is included here because many women from the Literacy section join the Handicraft section after completing their literacy course.)
The Handicraft courses are mainly designed to empower women with earning skills like tailoring, embroidery, carpet weaving, making wooden craft, crocheting, using beads making craft objects, and other crafts. Five women experts have been hired to train women in these skills, and one supervisor has been hired to help the instructors and show them better ways of making craft objects and to make objects that have more market appeal. The students have been provided with the required tools and materials by the Center so that they can learn and practice at the same time.
The women have been divided into morning and afternoon sessions. They train in the use of machines and all aspects of production, including pattern design, measuring, cutting, sewing, hemming and the most advanced aspects of embroidering using a variety of materials such as beads, silk and mirror sequin and crocheting and other textile ornamentals typical of south-central Asian styles.
The compound affords space for a pressing room, a room large enough for full cutting tables and rooms for embroidering, general tailoring, industrial sewing and storage. There is also a regular classroom in the basement, and a showroom just inside the entrance to the main building.
The center is fully fitted out with equipment and supplies necessary to complete this training phase. Machinery includes 15 Sepro industrial sewing machines for general production, 2 Joyee industrial high-speed twin needle machines, 2 Janome “buttonhole” machines for detail work, 8 embroidery machines and 3 overlock machines. There is a full array of hand tools, cutting, measuring and pressing tools, as well as all the textiles to accommodate a variety of training projects; this includes anything from traditional ethnic dresses to elaborate handbags to uniforms to curtains to business suits.
Some photos of the Handicraft section
Objectives of the Project
The main objectives of these courses are to empower women with the education and skills that could help them to stand on their own feet and earn their living. Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge for most of the women, particularly widows, is to feed their children, and since they are not skilled workers and not educated, they cannot earn enough to support their families.
The majority of the trainees are either house wives or unskilled workers like servants, cooks and housekeepers who are paid less than $50 per month while skilled women earn $200 - $300 per month.
Project Monitoring and Evaluation
In order to ensure transparency of the project, OPAWC‘s Project Committee has the responsibility to keep an eye on the activities of the project. The project coordinator monitors and supervises all activities of the project. She stays in the Center and checks and monitors the activities.
The coordinator holds meetings with all staff every Saturday and discusses the problems of the Center. It is a sort of evaluation, where each teacher has to report about her class and the trainees' progress. The teachers must show that they comply with the standards set for them by the coordinator. They keep a log sheet in which they write the lessons, and methods 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. Serious issues and suggestions are presented by the coordinator to the Committee, where they are discussed and a conclusion is reached to form a useful plan.
The continued availability of the Handicraft Training courses depends on a number of factors, which include the availability of funds, the commitment of the implementing agency to keep it running, and the students' willingness to attend the courses. Availability of funds directly relates to the donors' commitments and subsequently to the response and feedback they get from the implementing agencies; as long as the funds get through the project will be functioning.
The commitment of the implementing agencies also affects 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, as OPAWC's mission is to empower women through making them educated and also helping them to earn a living and stand on their own feet. And these courses serve this purpose.
Students' willingness is also important to keep this project running and this depends on how much they are satisfied with the Center. So far we have not received any complaint or any reports that the students wanted to distance themselves from the course; the Center provides them with free education with excellent instructors and environment, and there is no reason that the students want to leave the Center.
The VTC: 2011 and beyond
2010 will mark an auspicious starting point for 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 that can be of help to prevent them from being shackled and keep them on their own feet with self-determination.
In the field of literacy education we hope we can extend the classes and also arrange some other courses which have been requested from students, such as an English course, a computer class and beauty parlor training – which provides a good income – and further education.
In the field of Handicrafts we want to extend the section and use 2011 as a testing period for production. We hope that during the course of the year we can expand it into a system of production that will bring an income to the trained women to earn their living and bring a return to the VTC in order to recoup the outlay. We hope that we can find a good marketing method and collect orders from different regions. OPAWC has already received several orders from locals and foreigners, and we have to develop a system to respond to the orders we received in good time.
This plan will guide us for the future and help us to see what we can achieve 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. The repercussions of this concept are far reaching. There is nothing short-lived or humanitarian about it. It is based on sound democratic principles with respect to human dignity and the pursuit of a better life through one’s own ability and effort. So, all that the women of Afshur and Spin Kalay Districts 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.
VTC Staff excursion
Staff of the VTC visited the beautiful Pagman district of Kabul. The main purpose of this excursion was to provide a refreshing experience for the staff, who were tired from continuous work. They were happy and enjoyed their trip to Pagman.
Other Recent Activities
OPAWC participated in some international exhibitions and displayed the products of the VTC. The stall set up by OPAWC attracted the attention of the visitors, and some of our products were sold.