Women Masons Destroy Stereotypes

Women laying bricks for a school sidewalk. From masonry to carpentry, the school repair projects have served as effective traini
Women laying bricks for a school sidewalk. From masonry to carpentry, the school repair projects have served as effective training platforms for women who would not otherwise be able to learn the basics of a skilled trade.
With a reputation for having safe working environments, women now seek out USAID projects
CHALLENGE    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.
INITIATIVE     Instead of implementing specific women’s empowerment projects that would likely be met with resistance by the community, USAID and its implementing partner, Central Asia Development Group, have worked together to recruit women into community development projects across the country. In Nangarhar Province, project managers worked closely with the Jalalabad Women’s Affairs Directorate to recruit women into nine successive school repair projects. Every project involved one or more females who were responsible for onsite project supervision. Site managers and operations managers were trained to spot and flag cases of harassment. The staff and project workforce were also trained to understand that any harassment would be investigated and, if confirmed, would result in immediate employment termination. Additionally, the projects offered opportunities for skills training, from masonry to painting and carpentry that could ensure better income on future projects.
RESULTS    The manager in charge of the latest schools project describes the impact: "With the first project, it was difficult to hire even 20 women. The project was still relatively unknown, so we had to give strong assurances to convince women to come and work. With this latest project, we easily signed up 172 women during the recruitment week."
Female workforce members supported this assertion, stating that assurances from friends led them to seek work on this USAID-funded project. Anar, a mason’s assistant, was persuaded by a friend who had done work on an earlier project. She said, "I really wanted to work and was very glad that my friend took me to the Women’s Affairs Directorate where I got this job. I will also recommend it to my friends."

Last updated: January 12, 2015

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