Sarah, an exceptional 40-year-old woman, and mother of five children, has emerged as a beacon of success and inspiration. Four years ago, she embarked on a transformative path when she joined the HIHAO tailoring guild through the HASEL project as a teacher and member of the tailoring group. Having acquired tailoring skills during her immigration to Iran, Sarah’s passion for the craft ignited when she arrived in Kabul. Working alongside a skilled tailor in a private workshop, she honed her abilities for six months.
Driven by her unwavering determination, Sarah eagerly embraced the opportunity presented by the HIHAO women’s empowering project in Mazar-e-Sharif. Recognizing her exceptional talent and expertise, the project organizers entrusted her with the role of sewing teacher and group leader. This marked a significant milestone in Sarah’s professional journey as she wholeheartedly embraced her newfound responsibility of imparting knowledge to her peers.
Sarah’s dedication to supporting and training the group of sewing professionals was unwavering. She left no stone unturned in imparting essential skills, such as measurements, stitch types, fabric cuts, and machine utilization. Her commitment extended beyond the technical aspects of sewing; she also delved into crucial topics such as literacy, gender equality, women’s rights, and the importance of investing in sewing machines.
Sarah says: “Leading this training endeavor was no easy feat. The women I taught faced not only the challenges of mastering a new skill but also the psychological burdens and the prevailing difficult circumstances in the country.” Yet, Sarah’s unwavering commitment to fostering a free and peaceful environment allowed her students to thrive. Witnessing illiterate women write their names for the first time filled her with indescribable joy, as their enthusiasm radiated positive energy throughout the group.
“The impact of joining this project proved transformative for me and my family. My husband worked as a tile worker, and the financial responsibilities of supporting our five children weighed heavily upon us. Recognizing my husband’s limited means, I seized this opportunity as a means to improve our circumstances. By implementing lessons in business management and resource optimization, I maximized the potential of the materials and tools at hand,” she added.
The majority of the women Sarah mentored in the guild were widows and impoverished individuals, grappling with life’s hardships and psychological pressures. Empathizing with their struggles, Sarah’s ability to understand, motivate, and instill tailoring skills in each member of the group was a testament to her unwavering determination. Through her guidance, these women transformed into skilled tailors, empowered to craft a better future for themselves.
She says: “Amidst the challenging security conditions prevalent at that time, I successfully maintained the collection of the Self-Help Group (SHG). To this day, the group gathers every Friday to participate in their savings and loan activities.” Demonstrating her resourcefulness, Sarah took out a loan of 8,000 Afghanis and combined it with her salary savings. This enabled her to purchase a general-purpose sewing machine worth approximately 20,000 Afghanis. With the income from her sewing work, she diligently repaid the loan. Subsequently, she ventured into establishing an online cosmetics business for her daughter, with a further loan of 4,000 Afghanis supplemented by her husband’s contribution. Additionally, Sarah has managed to accumulate approximately 7,000 Afghanis in her savings group.
Today, Sarah’s workshop stands as a symbol of her remarkable accomplishments, catering to a diverse group of 15 female students. With a monthly income ranging between 10,000 to 15,000 Afghanis, she charges a modest fee of 500 Afghanis to each student for her invaluable sewing instruction.
Given the scarcity of construction jobs and her husband’s intermittent unemployment, Sarah has taken upon herself the responsibility of managing all household expenses. She ensures her sons’ education expenses are covered while her daughter, unable to attend school due to closures, focuses on elevating her online business and mastering an English course.
She says: “In the present circumstances, where economic conditions are dire and educational opportunities for girls remain limited, there is a burgeoning demand for skill acquisition.” Sarah has become a sought-after mentor for young girls yearning to learn the art of tailoring. In a time where sewing emerges as an efficient and sought-after skill for women, her expertise garners immense interest and offers a tangible solution to the prevailing challenges. With utmost confidence, Sarah attests to the tremendous impact of this project, expressing her utmost satisfaction with its implementation. She fervently hopes that such initiatives will be reignited in the future to meet the pressing needs of women in their quest for empowerment and economic independence.