Visit a village in Afghanistan, Shahrack Ulia

Join 110 villagers from one of Afghanistan’s poorest regions as they climb from subsistence to success

In September 2017, thanks to a generous US $49,000 donation, Hand in Hand embarked on a two-year mission to transform the community of Shahrack Ulia, by deploying our job creation model on a village-wide scale. This page tracks its progress.

The plan

Members trained

To provide business and skills training to 110  Shahrack villagers

Jobs created

Business owners employ their neighbours. An estimated 140 jobs will result from the programme

Lives improved

Every business we helped create in Shahrack Ulia benefited an average of five family members – young, old and everywhere in between. We planned to lift  700 children and adults out of poverty

The challenge

In urban Afghanistan 78.2 percent of the population live below the poverty line and Mazar-i-Sharif has particularly high levels of poverty, despite the strength of its growing economy. Similarly, while food insecurity is widespread in Afghanistan it is particularly high in Mazar where over 60 percent of household income is spent on a diet based on cereals and vegetables; meat is almost absent.

Although only a twenty minute drive from the centre of Mazar-i-Sharif, Shahrack Ulia in Faqir Abad is a different world. Densely packed, small homes are made from mud, with wooden roofs, most people cook over an open fire (or small gas stove), the roads are unmade and although there are fresh water wells there are no fresh water supplies to individual homes. Electricity is available but the people are so poor they don’t really need much electricity (other than to charge a mobile phone or perhaps a light in the evenings), even if they could afford it.

 

 

Introducing the Field Officer

Frishta Muradi is the trainer who will support the women of Faqir Abad from subsistence to business success.

Frishta is 23 years old and joined Hand in Hand Afghanistan in July 2017. A local resident, she graduated from Balkh Technical and Vocational Institute. She is an exceptionally courageous woman, one of few women who work outside their homes, in defiance of the country’s traditional norms.

Frishta says, “Since introducing the project to the people in Faqir Abad, they are very happy and optimistic about the results of this project on their lives.

They told me “it is a very good programme for building the habit of saving among us; we will be enabled to start a small business after receiving skills and business training.”

Introducing local resident, Mrs. Suhaila

Mrs Suaila and her family, pictured in the main image above and left, at home with Frishta, is a mother of six children and was one of the first to sign up to the Hand in Hand programme in your village. Three of her children are old enough for school, but she cannot afford the school fees. Sadly, Suhaila’s husband is a drug addict and therefore Suhaila is responsible for the whole family. Now that she is a member of a Hand in Hand self-help group Suhaila is looking forward to improving her life and that of her children.

 

 

 

 

Summary of achievements so far

Our goal is to mobilise all the groups in the first two months and then take everyone through our specialist business training programme at the same time. As you can see from the numbers below, all groups have already been formed in Shahrak-e-Ulia and have now embarked on the business training.

An update from Frishta Muradi, the Business Trainer 

In our last update, we introduced you to Frishta Muradi. She is living alongside the residents of Shahrak-e-Ulia because she can walk to all the meetings (although Mazar-e-Sharif is Afghanistan’s most liberal city, women were not allowed to drive under the Taliban and as a result, very few know how to do so today).

When asked about the programme so far, Frishta tells us, “I feel the training has been a real eye

opener for the members. However, I also make sure I listen to their feedback and adjust what I teach to reflect the education and skills they already have.

 

Frishta added, “The group saving scheme means, for the first time, these women have money of their own. What is more, thanks to the business training, they are learning to read and write, and that means they want the same for their children. It’s amazing how learning to run a business impacts on the whole family”.

The local context

In urban Afghanistan 78.2 percent of the population live below the poverty line and Mazar-e-Sharif has particularly high levels of poverty, despite the strength of its growing economy. Similarly, while food insecurity is widespread in Afghanistan it is particularly high in Mazar where over 60 percent of household income is spent on a diet based on cereals and vegetables; meat is almost absent.

Much of that poverty is concentrated in Shahrak-e-Ulia, Faqir Abad, an urban sprawl on the outskirts of Mazar and home to thousands who have fled the insecurity and joblessness prevalent in the provinces. Faqir Abad means ‘residence area of the poor’ in English. Your community Shahrak-e-Ulia is one of the small villages to have sprung up in Faqir Abad as the population has grown in recent years.

Although only a twenty minute drive from the center of Mazar-e-Sharif, Shahrak-e-Ulia is a different world. Densely packed, small homes are made from mud, with wooden roofs, most people cook over an open fire (or small gas stove), the roads are unmade and although there are fresh water wells there are no fresh water supplies to individual homes. Electricity is available but the people are so poor they don’t really need much electricity (other than to charge a mobile phone or perhaps a light in the evenings), even if they could afford it.

However, life in Mazar-e-Sharif and Shahrack-e-Ulia is relatively relaxed in comparison to the more conservative rural areas of Afghanistan and so the women walk to our meetings unaccompanied, can take the bus to city centre (although always in groups because the incidence of robbery is high and there is safety in numbers) and ride pillion on a motorbike with a male relative.

 

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