Woman Horticulturalist Changes Traditional Perceptions

Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Fatima Abbasi completing her USAID sponsored internship with the Ghazni MAIL office.
USAID/Afghanistan

Fatima Abbasi graduated from Ghazni University three years ago as the only female horticulture student in her class. She still remembers the discouragement from her fellow students telling her to forget her studies, forgo her ambitions, and to go back home. She nearly gave up. Worse, after graduation, with no work experience, she could not find a job in this male-dominated sector.

But Fatima wanted to change the prevailing perceptions that women should neither study nor take up a profession. A year later, through a USAID internship program, she was placed in the Ghazni provincial agricultural directorate. The six-month program enabled her to obtain skills in agricultural project management. After completing her internship, she received a job as an extension worker with an agricultural program funded by the World Bank. “The in-ternship was the catalyst,” she says, “it equipped me with skills and practical experience to pass the recruitment tests and interviews.”

Today, Fatima has the respect of her family and her peers for her performance. She is working with 400 women farmers, helping them establish backyard greenhouses and make jams and pickles. In rural Afghanistan, where men cannot work with women gardeners and women are not allowed to go out for training, Fatima can freely go in and out of homes.

Men in the village are starting to recognize and value her worth to the community. They see what she is achieving in their communities and the pride she takes in her work. They also are learning that sending their daughters to school to become professionals like Fatima can help add an income to the household. “I proved that the stereotype about women in agriculture is wrong,” she says, “I want other girls to study and work outside.”

Fatima not only gained employment for herself, but also now serves as a role model, changing the perceptions of Afghan women in agriculture.

“As a former agricultural intern, I am grateful to USAID for enabling me to get a job in line with my education. I was the only female student in my class and now I’m the only female extension worker in the Ghazni office. All my efforts and struggles are finally paying off: I’m going to remote villages helping hundreds of rural women with agricultural advice. They see in me a role model encouraging both men and women to allow their girls too to study agriculture and work outside their homes, in farms and in offices,” said Fatima Abbasi.

Last updated: April 18, 2020

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