Footballs and Literacy Change Lives for Afghan Women

35-year-old Ruqia has learned to read on a WFP-supported food-for-training class. "Now I can dial telephone numbers and read signs," she tells us. Photo: WFP/Silke Buhr.

WFP food rations can be an incentive for families to send women on training courses, where they learn how to read and write as well as basic marketable crafts. Enjila Hashimi spoke to women on a course in Kabul to find out what difference such a food-for-training activity had made in their lives.

In 2011, nearly 22,500 women in Afghanistan received WFP food rations to support them in learning “vocational” skills – crafts such as embroidering or sewing – and over 47,000 women received food while they learned how to read and write. But what impact can these classes and food rations actually have on a woman’s life? Here are the stories of three trainees on a WFP-supported course in the outskirts of Kabul.

Ruqia: life is difficult when you're illiterate

“My name is Ruqia and I am 35 years old. I have five children: a son and four daughters. My husband is self-employed. We live in a shabby house on the mountain. When I was illiterate it was very difficult to manage our daily living. In this two-hour literacy class I have learnt many things. I can now help my children with their lessons, dial telephone numbers, read signs and recognise addresses, read the dates on items I buy and many more things… Beside this, we are receiving food from the World Food Programme which is very helpful.

"In these classes we are also learning how to make footballs, which we then sell. We are paid 50 Afs (about 1 USD) for each ball. I am very optimistic about this programme – not only do we learn literacy, but also how to improve our economy.

"We are so thankful for the World Food Programme, for its great support. It is really effective in all stages of our lives. Many thanks to the World Food Programme!”

Malika: now daughters can go to school

“My name is Malika and I am 38 years old. I have three daughters and two sons. I am one of the World Food Programme’s literacy class students. Before I attended this class, my kids were not attending school. My daughters had to stay home to help my husband weave carpets, because his work alone could not cover our costs.  When I joined this class and received food, it helped us find the money to send our daughters to school. Besides reading and writing, I am learning how to make balls, and when they are sold I am paid 50 Afs (about 1 USD) for each. Now our financial situation is improving and my husband does not prevent our children from going to school. My daughters are very happy to go to school.

"I am very thankful to the World Food Programme for providing us with food and for creating such projects, through which we can improve our lives in the future. We request WFP officials to continue such projects. It is really empowering women from all sides.”

  

Habiba: I'd only attended first grade when I got married

“My name is Habiba, I am 27 years old, and I have three children- a daughter and two sons. My husband is a labourer.

"I had only attended first class when I got married and then my husband did not allow me to go to school. Because of the war we fled to Iran. When we returned back to Afghanistan we were suffering very badly economically. During the past winter we lived in a house whose windows were covered only with plastic. We had nothing to heat the house with.

"When I heard that the World Food Programme is helping poor and vulnerable people I was very happy! Since this project is close to our home, my husband allows me to come to the classes. Now we are learning new things. I know that being literate is very important and that we can solve many of our problems by learning to read and write. We are grateful to WFP for supporting us and providing us with food, which helps us to study and to improve our lives. We want them to continue this programme because we want to continue our classes to higher grades.”