Each year, more than 60 women complete a six-month training program in vocational, literacy, and hygiene, empowering them to care for their family’s needs and to live healthier lives. Currently, there are three active vocational programs in three different villages, each with 22 students.
During the 10-year war against Soviet invaders, nearly two million Afghans were killed, leaving many Afghan women without fathers, husbands, and sons and therefore no means of supporting themselves. Most of these women were illiterate, and many didn’t know how to keep their families healthy through simple hygiene practices like handwashing before eating. Tailoring instruction and family planning programs are particularly popular and fill an important need that Afghanistan’s schools simply can’t meet.
In response, AWAKEN launched a vocational tailoring program in 2005, teaching women how to use sewing machines to make clothing. They also learned how to read and how to keep their homes and families healthy. Upon graduation from the six-month program, each woman was given a sewing machine, cloth, scissors, needles, and other tailoring supplies.
The first class graduated 32 women, and since then AWAKEN has offered an average of two programs per year, each in a different village within the Behsood District. For many women, these skills allow them to become self-sufficient, increase their dignity, and support their community.
Saheli Centers: partnership with Rotary
In 2017, AWAKEN launched an exciting new program for women that includes computer instruction. Through a generous grant provided by Rotary International, AWAKEN and Rotary are collaboratively offered two Saheli Women’s Centers each year, in addition to AWAKEN’s regular vocational training programs.The Saheli Centers were developed in India and then developed in the Behsood District to provide women with literacy and family planning education, and they also give women the choice of learning tailoring skills or computer skills. Although the grant funded ended this year, AWAKEN is now fulfilling its terms by continuing these services.
For AWAKEN and its supporters, vocational training programs are remarkably cost-effective—the only expenses are sewing machine and tailoring supply purchases, teacher salaries, and rental of a suitable space for six months—but the benefits are priceless.