‘Work experience’

Poor Afghan women in deeply conservative city are given jobs — and a sense of purpose

In the conservative city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 100 women have begun working for an urban garden initiative that for many marks the first salary they’ve ever earned — and a chance to prove that they’re capable of doing more than just sitting at home. In the garden, the women wear fluorescent orange work blouses — a stark contrast with the traditional sky-blue burqa worn by women on the rare occasions that they are seen in public around the city. The women, all of them poor and many widowed, work six days a week tending the citiy’s public gardens for approximately $130 a month.

Nangarhar, the region in which Jalalabad sits, contains the Tora Bora mountains where Osama bin Laden hid after the terror attacks of 9/11, and has become a stronghold of both ISIS and the Taliban. According to the traditions of the Pushtuns, the ethnic group that dominates the region, “it’s not allowed for women to go outside without a man of the family,” explained Mohammad Nader Sargand, the head of U.N.-Habitat’s “Clean and Green City” program in Jalalabad.

“For most women, this is the first work experience out of the home,” he said, noting that “Pushtun culture imposes so many restrictions on women, far more than Islam.”

The U.N. program has hired 8,000 apprentice gardeners across a dozen Afghan provinces since 2006 — including 1,000 women. Jalalabad, he said, has been one of the hardest to work in.

But for Najiba, a widow in her 40s, the garden has provided her with both an income and a sense of purpose.

“People in the country say I shouldn’t come and work with men, but I am very happy to do that work and I am really happy to come here,” she said, laughing. “I hope my daughters will be able to join me, too.”

“Afghan women are powerful, they can work if given the same opportunities (as men) and they want it,” she added. “But this is the first time that they are given a chance to work.”

Read the full story at Yahoo News.

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