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.
Noria Sedequi and her family of 10 lived in exile in Pakistan for eight years during the Taliban regime. They returned to Parwan Province, about 60 kilometers north of Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2001. Jobs were scarce, and Noria knew that jobs for women were even more scarce.
Years of drought depleted livestock and impoverished many families in Herat Province, in Western Afghanistan near the Iranian border. Poppy smuggling is a common source of income for some, but many men have lost their lives in this dangerous and illegal enterprise. Due to these deaths, the Adraskan District has more widows than any other district in the province. Most of these widows are unable to earn enough to provide for themselves and their children, or even to purchase basic materials for making carpets, for which Herat is well-known.
Most farmers in Afghanistan make little or no income during the winter. In addition, the high start-up costs for cold storage that could boost farmer income is not feasible for the average small-to-medium scale farmer. In Herat Province, the approximately 1.5 million inhabitants rely on fresh fruit and vegetables imported from Iran or Pakistan at high prices during the winter. Afghan farmers do not possess the greenhouse technology necessary to grow late-season or off-season fruits and vegetables to meet this large demand.
Through USAID, the clinic received a major refurbishment and a newly constructed wing. The roof, exterior, interior, and bathroom facilities were completely gutted and renovated. The clinic also received a new generator and water tank.
The newly reconstructed 64 kilometer (40 mile) Ghazni-to-Sharan road has decreased travel time between the two communities from four hours to one.
USAID’s implementing partner, Central Asia Development Group, is quick to talk about her family. “I have been very fortunate,” she states. “My family promoted my education. I have one older sister, who is now a lawyer, and a second who studies political science. I have been encouraged to pursue long-term studies in law.”
There are more than two million widows in Afghanistan as a result of two decades of conflict and civil war. In Kabul alone, there an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 widows, many of whom are uneducated, illiterate, and lack basic job skills. Many Afghan widows are left to support themselves and their families with little hope and few prospects.
USAID has placed women’s empowerment in Afghanistan as a priority, focusing on improved access to work, education, leadership roles, and legal recourse. At the same time, projects tailored expressly toward these goals have met sharp resistance in traditional communities across the country. In some cases, this resistance has stymied projects before their beneficial impact could be felt. These gaps have resulted in a large opportunity cost, not only for women, but for whole households in communities across Afghanistan.
Last updated: January 12, 2015