Farida* is a 26-year-old from Afghanistan, and a mum of five children. She is one of roughly 20,000 Afghan women benefiting from self-help groups supported by Tearfund’s local partner organisation.
‘I had lots of problems before joining the self-help group,’ says Farida*. ‘My husband was jobless and we did not have money for our daily needs. When my children became sick, we did not have money to take them to the doctor. There were many times my children went to bed without eating, and I would cry.’ She and her husband sold most of their possessions in order to try and make ends meet – carpets, kitchen equipment and more… but it wasn’t enough.
A new opportunity
When a new self-help group is set up, our partner staff help the local community select members based on their level of need, with the most vulnerable families prioritised. When a group was planned in Farida’s village, she was offered a place.
The women start by contributing small amounts of money to the group savings, but Farida had nothing to contribute. She borrowed some money from her mother to get started.
Farida quickly began to feel the benefit of the self-help group. ‘I shared my problems with the group members, and they listened to me,’ she says. After two months, Farida took two loans from the group, totalling 13,000 AFS [about £130], to help her husband start a small business.
With the money, Farida’s husband bought a push cart and some household goods to sell, and soon began to earn a living. ‘We are happy…’ says Farida. ‘The profit allows us to meet our daily needs. Our children are going to bed with full stomachs, and we paid my loans off in full!’
A chance to learn
Like so many women in Afghanistan, Farida wasn’t sent to school because she is female. Self-help groups give women like her the opportunity to learn new skills, including how to read and write, and grow in confidence and self-worth. It’s not just women who are benefiting, but children and young people too.
Shabana* is a 16-year-old benefiting from the creative enterprise of her local self-help group members, who are funding art lessons for young people who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity. While art lessons could sound trivial, they have hugely enriched Shabana’s life.
‘I am thankful to the self-help group and my teacher for giving me the opportunity to explore life in a way that I could only have dreamed about,’ says Shabana. ‘Drawing is a whole new world for me, and has changed my opinion about life. I found art to be like a huge ocean, no matter how much I learnt, it was never enough. I can never reach the bottom. It is my dream to be a professional artist, who gives exhibitions in my country and throughout the world.’
A prayer for International Women’s Day
We praise you that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made – different but equal. Together with women around the world who enjoy the opportunities they deserve to thrive, we thank you. And with those who lack those opportunities, or who are treated badly because of their gender, we cry out for more of your justice and transformation. Teach us to see one another and ourselves as you do – precious, significant and loved.
*All names changed to protect identities.