Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

What does “human rights” mean? More importantly, what does it mean to me?

When Mohammed Magarief, president of Libya's General National Congress, attended the opening of the Mafqood Center for Missing Persons on Dec. 17, 2012, he provided a DNA sample to help in the search for his brother, Azzat, who has been missing since the 1990s.

His is by no means a unique case. Thousands of families are still searching for answers, with “up to 10,000 people missing … from Libya’s recent conflict” and decades of oppression, as explained in the November 2012 issue of The Economist.

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.

In September 2013, the marginalized northern population of Sri Lanka will experience a historic event—the opportunity to vote in the first Northern Provincial Council Elections. But a significant hurdle exists. An estimated 85,000 registered voters lack a National Identity Card (NIC), which must be presented at the polling station on Election Day. 

Many lost their NICs while displaced during the country's 30-year civil war. Others never had one because they were living under a rebel administration.

Ethiopian designer Fikirte Addis feels like she is "ready to fly.” A one-time child psychologist with a passion for design, Addis took a risk in 2009 by launching her own fashion brand—Yefikir Design. Since then, she has won a design competition in Mauritius, received standing ovations at African Fashion Week in New York, and joined the ethical fashion scene—a movement akin to fair trade—in Paris. 

Najiba’s family did not fully appreciate its benefits when they reluctantly allowed her to participate in livestock extension training. The 19-year-old helped her father raise karakul, the sheep whose wool is used to make hats and coats. But Afghan karakul did not usually command high prices internationally. And Najiba and her father struggled to support their family of nine.

A unique exercise is underway at Alberoni University in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province. A small demonstration plot has been prepared and 170 agriculture students are being trained in modern farming techniques. It is part of USAID’s Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives for the North, East and West (IDEA-NEW) program to update the students’ knowledge and skills and compensate for the lack of practical training at most Afghan universities.

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Last updated: October 17, 2013