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Women take the lead

Inspired by the example of the founder and president of the Nai Qala Association, the women of Sokhtagi have created a women’s council

Impressed by the fact that an Afghan woman could lead a project in their area and inspired by the founder and president of the Nai Qala Association, women have decided to take their fate into their own hands.

During fall 2017, the women in the village of  Sokhtagi created the “Women’s Council Association”. This is the first council of this type not only in the village and in the district, but certainly also throughout the province of Bamyan.

The goal of a women’s council is to provide a forum for discussion where everyone can share their ideas in confidence. Women are aware that if they want to be able to participate in decisions, they must be clear and precise in their demands. Women’s health and literacy are part of the council’s priorities.

Creation of the council

A few months ago Momena, a fifty-something, illiterate mother of seven, grandmother and shepherd’s wife had the vision of creating a women’s council to answer their specific problems. This need to assemble women was based on the observation that a group has more weight than an isolated individual; with this idea in mind, Momena started to bring women together.

The President of the Nai Qala Association’s first visit to Sokhtagi was a trigger for Momena. She accompanied the President in each of the meetings with the community and was inspired by Taiba Rahim’s leadership and the tasks that were distributed to the community.

One of the tasks entrusted to the community was to prepare the ground for the construction of the school. Momena took it upon herself to go door to door, and collect money to rent the bulldozer that would allow the community to prepare the ground. Thanks to her persuasiveness, Momena was able to collect the financing on her own. This first success allowed her not only to gain the community’s recognition and the men’s respect but also to send a strong message to the women, so that they joined her in her project.

During Nai Qala President’s visit in December 2017, the women discussed the statutes and elected the committee members of the newly created association. Momena hired some students from Sokhtagi school as treasurer, spokesperson or secretary of the new council association.

A source of motivation

The construction of a school by the Nai Qala Association brings a village not only development opportunities for children but also strength and confidence to the community, especially for women.

Momena expressed gratitude to Taiba Rahim, President of the Nai Qala Association: “Thank you for bringing change to our village. Your presence among us, the way you speak to men means a lot to us. It encourages me to convince women to join.”

We have seen a greater participation of women in Nai Qala projects than in any other similar project in the region. The women have seen that Nai Qala’s projects are proposed and led by a woman, which makes all the difference for them. This gives them more strength and self-confidence.

 

Thanks to Nai-Qala, girls can benefit from capacity-building course during the winter

For the duration of the winter capacity building course, some girls are living in host families’homes. 

In mid-December, Nai Qala teacher-trainers travelled to the village of Zeera Gag, where the Nai Qala Association built a school in 2015, to launch a new course of capacity building.

Nai Qala had already run this program in the village of Zeera Gag last winter, during the school holidays. It was meant for over 200 girls. But gradually the numbers of girls reduced every week; indeed,  many girls were living in the remote villages where there are high risks of snow avalanche and tough weather condition. All the girls who could not attend the course were very sad.

This summer, many determined parents who shared their daughters’ disappointment, approached families who live near the school of Zeera Gag. Many families agreed to have a girl live with them for a period of 3 months, the duration of the capacity building course. In return, these parents have agreed to give host families some wheat or cheese.

Just in the last few weeks before the start of the course, over 10 girls between age 16 and 18 were already living in their new houses, impatiently waiting for the Nai Qala teachers to arrive, and to benefit from the course.

For this year, the course is planned for 160 girls.

To know more on the capacity building project, click here.

Mothers love the early childhood program

Mothers are enthusiastic about the early childhood education program

Mothers whose sons and daughters attend the early childhood program are impressed by the progress of their children and are very grateful to the Nai Qala Association for providing such a class. Four of them shared their testimonials:

Setayesh (6 years old) and Elena’s (5 years old) mother: “My daughters learnt how to read and sing, greet people and to be polite. They learnt and then explained  the five senses to the family. I never thought about this … and found it very interesting. Every day when my children come home and share their new knowledge with me, it fills my heart with a happiness and joy that I have never felt before. My children are different from the other children. If Nai Qala Association were to experience financial difficulties one day, we would contribute to the class to help maintain such an important program for our children. We will do anything for our daughters!”. 

Saraj ‘s (4 years old) mother“My son is very careful about his clothes and tries to play in a safe environment. Before these classes, he used to play in the dust and in dirty places, but now it’s totally different. Playing in a clean place became part of his dignity and discipline. He greets and shows respect for everybody. Within just four months, he has become another boy. He learned things that I could never think of how to tell them to my child. Now I know how it’s done and how to talk with my child.  I am very grateful that Nai Qala provides us with such an important program. I hope the Nai Qala Association will continue such a program. If not, we will continue this program by ourselves”.

Marina’s (5 years old) mother“My daughter comes home,  shares and sings all the songs she learned in the class. It brings so much happiness to our home.  Marina behaves totally different at home, her way of talking, eating, listening, greeting… The notebook that has been given to her in the class, is a big motivation for her. She reads and write without stopping. When I see Marina, I regret we did not have such an opportunity when I was her age… I hope Marina learns well and will have a good future.  The songs of my daughter give me such an inspiration that I wish there should be such a class for mothers too”.

Razeya, mother of 2 young children: “I am very happy to come to the class where my 2 children go every day. I cannot believe it when I see my 4 years old girl and 3 years old boy read and write already at such  a young age. I am impressed to see them playing in such a positive and clean environment with other children. I see how they are learning, playing together and developing their personalities. Since my children attend this early childhood class, they are very different. They say hello to everybody, wash their hands regularly, especially before and after eating”. 

Nai Qala contributes to the development of the local economy

Nai Qala provides the poorest populations with an income by hiring local  helpers when building community infrastructures

In rural villages, the lack of income threatens the budget of many families. Karim, a father of 7 children, was unemployed and did not own any land; he had tried several times to travel to Iran to work but had often been sent back at the border. To earn a little money, Karim and his wife made the difficult decision to place their four children as servants or agricultural helpers.

During the construction of the school, Karim got a temporary job on the construction site. Every morning for 8 months, his wife baked bread for the workers and the family earnt some money. Thanks to this money, the family bought a piece of land and 7 sheeps. They worked hard, grew wheat and the number of sheeps rose to 15.

The years passed and the parents were able to bring the children back home. The father promised that all his children would study in the school he had contributed to build.

Nai Qala’s philosophy is always to hire local auxiliaries for the construction of community infrastructures. In the last 10 years, Nai Qala has hired more than 700 villagers, providing income to people in these remote areas. Village men were employed in the construction of the schools, giving them wages they would not get otherwise, and their wives earned money by providing food to the outworkers in the village.

The impact of tutoring classes

The capacity building course creates new perspectives for students in remote villages and allows parents to make substantial savings.

Aqela, 12th grade in Nai Qala School shares her opinion on the capacity building course:

I was very stressed about how to strengthen my scientific subjects to get ready for the admission exam for university; will I be able to attend the exam? I asked my parents if they could support me to go to a bigger town to get some additional study. But my parents could not support me financially.

By spring, I heard that NQA is providing such a course in our village. It was hard to believe. I had the feeling that I am flying. Yet this truly happened. The course took place and since then my life has filled with hope and determination! I have tried to attend every single class this semester. The feeling of responsibility is rising inside me: I must take this chance and succeed. 

My dream is to work in the health sector to help my village and community. Health is one of the biggest problems and a huge challenge.”

In 2016, tutoring was provided in the village of Nai Qala to over 100 students in preparation for university entrance. The original goal was to tutor 46 girls and 34 boys, but more students became interested and benefitted from the project.

The training course has helped the community to save about USD 20’000 (which is the amount that would have been spent if all the children had been sent to a town for such a course, corresponding to USD 200 for each child).

A better standard of education means that more of our rural children, including girls, will have the chance to go to university.

In 2017, over 182 teenagers (120 girls and 62 boys) attended the tutoring class.

To know more on the capacity building and tutoring classes project, click here.

Be a source of inspiration

Former students from Nai Qala schools are now teacher trainers and a source of inspiration for current students

To start the teacher training project in 2016, we hired three university graduates with teaching skills. Remarkably, two of the teachers graduated from a Nai Qala school few years ago.

After completing their university studies, they are now prepared to work to serve their community. The fact that they attended a Nai Qala school was one criterion for selecting them: they return to serve their people, which in turn is a source of inspiration for other students in the village.

The project has also given some local people with qualifications an opportunity to stay in their region rather than seek work elsewhere. This can be an inspiration to other villagers.

Community engagement

Inspired by the community infrastructures that are provided to them, local communities feel empowered and more engaged

During Autumn 2017, the community of Sokhtagi got together to discuss the school that was under construction and what their own roles would be in the future. They organized a lunch and everyone – women and men – sat in the same room and ate together. It was amazing to see how women and men talked about a common project and the future of the village, and that everybody felt included

The engagement of the community in Nai Qala’s projects increases community pride and commitment. The new infrastructures become a symbol of shared commitment, encouraging a sense of shared goals with community participation and solidarity.

Members of the communities impacted by the construction of schools and clinics have an increased role in decision-making and they collectively take part in the design, implementation and management of those projects.

Winter break for preschoolers

After 6 months of activity, both early childhood education classes are enjoying a well-deserved winter break. Temperatures in the region of Nai Qala are well below zero degrees and snow has appeared.During the past semester, children of Nai Qala have made remarkable progress. They have not only learned how to recognize and write the letters of the Dari (Farsi) alphabet, and to count until 50 but they have developed new social skills through playing and doing artistic activities.

Thanks to this pilot project, 36 girls and boys listened to stories, drew, painted, and developed their imagination. All together, they participated in games that boosted their self-confidence and stimulated the development of their personality.

The children of Nai Qala have enjoyed the new class of early childhood education. They have been encouraged, felt inspired, realized their dreams and can now apprehend the future more serenely.

Learning construction skills

Nai Qala always hires local people to assist with the construction of community infrastructures.

In addition to earning money, villagers also learn while working. Nai Qala’s buildings are constructed with up-to-date techniques that are considered to be very new building methods in these areas where traditional houses are made from mud and do not have windows.


Equipped with new building skills, villagers can find jobs in other types of construction. When a non-profit organization comes to their villages, they can offer their skill or they may find a job outside the village and bring a salary home.

One local worker said: “I cannot go somewhere and offer my shepherd skill or cutting bushes from mountains… but this new construction skill now gives me more options for job opportunities. I find a job and earn money.”