Afghanistan is one of the least developed countries in the world. Approximately 40 % of its population live below the poverty line. Agriculture and livestock is the main source of livelihood for approximately 70% of the population who live in rural areas. Daikundi province in the central highlands in Afghanistan is a microcosm of the larger Afghanistan in terms poverty as well as the cultural traditions and practices with all its benefits, inequalities and tribulations. Polygamy is one of the local practices, condoned by the Islamic law perils many women in Diakundi as in the rest of the country. Zahira is one of those women living in a polygamist marriage.
Zahira, a 35 year old vibrant woman, a mother of five was left to fend for herself and her children when her husband decided to live with his other wife. She had no education, assets or income and was unable to feed her children or send them to school. Desperate about her situation, she started to look for livelihood opportunities.
In 2015, she joined Oxfam’s Building Resilient Livelihood (BRL) Project. Under the BRL Project, almond orchards were being rehabilitated and good water management technologies implemented. Zahira, among other women in the community, participated in the BRL project. Zahira was assigned to irrigation of almond saplings in the farm which enabled her to earn AFN 1200 (around $ 17) per month. She used some of this money to sell boiled eggs in the market. In the next few months, Zahira saved enough money from the project and egg business, to set up a small booth to sell food and non-food items. With continued support and advice from the BRL team she expanded her business and now she is a business woman who earns enough income for her to provide a living for her family and pay for their education.
“I am now sending all my children to school. My husband too has come back and regrets abandoning us in the past,” -said Zahira.
Zahira’s new found courage and stability has changed the attitude of her husband, Ali. He is a very conservative and traditional man who would have never approved of women’s work in public, has changed his views and has become a good supporter of Zahira. Upon Zahira’s suggestions, he has attended several gender-equality trainings conducted under the BRL Project after which he realized the importance of women’s participation in social and economic activities.
“Now I try to convince other men in the community to encourage their daughters to attend school and their wives to take part in social and economic activities,” -says Ali