For a village in eastern Afghanistan, it took a wall to start building a better future. The new fence around the school gave families the confidence to send their children to study without worrying about their safety. Till then, they feared they might be kidnapped and sold in neighboring Pakistan. Or that insurgents would try to stop girls from going to school.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Urban Development is unable to pursue gender-sensitive procedures, notably in housing distribution. This is partly because there are very few women in key positions at the Ministry. The Afghan government is acutely aware of the gender gap. It wants 30 per cent of all employees to be women by 2014. Women currently account for just 18 per cent.
When times are tough, Nafas Gul Bakhtanai shows exceptional toughness. Forced to flee Afghanistan on account of the Taliban, she worked in a shoe factory in Pakistan. Returning to Jalalabad 12 years later, she refused to be disheartened by the fact that jobs were scarce and her husband could not support their family of nine. Instead, Nafas scraped the money together to buy 14 kilos of wheat. She turned it into farina, selling the cereal to put food on the table.
All too often, Kamila Sidiqi is the only woman at business meetings and she is very aware that her presence makes some of the men uncomfortable. To Kamila, this is proof that her current venture is crucial.
When Kandahar held a jobs fair, it was a first for Afghanistan’s second largest city. Eight private firms attended and it drew 33 job seekers, nine of them women. Till then, says Haji Nazir Ahmed who works in a local business, the city’s employment practices relied on knowing someone’s antecedents rather than their abilities.
Last updated: January 16, 2015