In Afghanistan, women master trainers propel economy

By Michelle Tolson

November 25, 2015

Kabul—Five Afghan women are putting their skills to work to make sure thousands more young women and men have the skills they need to secure a job and grow Afghanistan’s economy.

These women—recognized as distinguished master trainers with the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program—completed a seven-day master trainer’s course, learning the key components of vocational training design and methods for assessing employers’ labor market needs and developing corresponding job training curricula.

“Before in my training there was more theory, but now it is more practical. Using these techniques, I am improving myself,” says 26-year-old Tahmina Haidare, Project Manager for the Afghan Holding Group, after completing the master trainers’ course. “I think if we were to do an assessment of what we learned now compared to what we knew before, I think you can see what we’ve come far.”

As certified master trainers, these women are key links in the chain for growing the capacity of other trainers to equip job seekers and employees, especially women, for the needs of the market.

Master Trainer Tahmina Haidare receives a certificate from Creative Associates’ President Leland Kruvant in recognition of her contribution to the program as a master trainer and facilitator at a ceremony in Kabul on Nov. 1, 2015. Photo by Michelle Tolson.

“Having female master trainers is not only an achievement for the program but also has great impact within society and among women,” says Salem Helali, Chief of Party for the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program.  “They are examples of success and inspiration, which will motivate other women too. Skilled female master trainers not only enables the program to train more female trainers and trainees, but also helps increase women’s participation in the society.”

The program—which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International, along with local partners—is designed to fill Afghanistan’s skills gap with local mid-level employees by building the capacity of technical and vocational training providers to assess employers’ needs and design curricula that prepares Afghans for those in-demand positions.

Better training for skilled employment

Afghanistan’s private sector has a shortage of skilled workers, driving up demand for qualified candidates. To fill employer needs, workers are often sourced from Pakistan, Iran, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines and beyond.

Despite the importance of technical, vocational and business training, most training providers in the country focus largely on training entry-level workers, according to a recent survey.

“[Technical and vocational education and training] provision in Afghanistan is characterized by training in a very limited number of topics at a rudimentary level of proficiency….there is no corroboration of training that meets employer needs,” reports the survey.

Quality-control, including curriculum improvement and training design, is also a challenge.

“The Afghan vocational training system has weaknesses. There is a lack of standardization in training,” says 26-year-old Mariam Noor, who was certified as a master trainer while working for the Afghanistan Leading Management Consultancy.

The course covers critical topics including adult learning principals, effective training management, public speaking, competency-based mapping, monitoring and evaluation and more.

Through the master training, Noor says, she learned time management skills and how to handle challenges while conducting training programs.

Nia Dicket (center), Capacity Building Manager at Creative Associates, instructs master trainers Tamseela Tanovir and Zainab Brommand at the master trainers’ course in Kabul on April 5, 2015. Photo by Aziz Gulbahari.

The Afghanistan Workforce Development Program’s master training course brings together trainers from across vocational training providers in diverse sectors, creating an opportunity for participants to interact and share ideas and experiences to improve their work.

“We are coming from different organizations and learning from each other’s experiences,” says 25-year-old Monesa Satari, a trainer in financial management and master trainer course graduate.

Master trainers also learn how to conduct labor market demand assessments and guide others to carry them out and translate their findings into targeted vocational training.

“The good thing about the demand assessment is it follows market needs and builds [workers’] capacity specifically to that, and gives them the opportunity to learn what their employers require,” says Haidare, who, as a master trainer, helped implement project management and marketing training and placement programs.

New avenues for women in the workforce

In Afghanistan, women’s participation in the workforce was often limited in recent years to handicraft and other unskilled work as that was the most common form of technical training available to women.

Prior to programs the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program, private technical and vocational training providers’ courses had an estimated 25 percent participation rate for women. Unfortunately, most of those trainings focused on low-skilled sectors such as beauty, handicraft and sewing work, rather than in-demand skilled sectors.

To remedy this, the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program aimed to train, place and promote 25,000 skilled Afghans in semi-professional work, with a goal of a 25 percent participation rate for women. Fortunately, the program has far exceeded its goal—36 percent of placements are women in sectors such as project and financial management, marketing and information and communications technology.

Through the program, more than 5,000 women in Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar, Kunduz and Jalalabad have been placed or promoted with salary increases in mid-level work.

Mariam Noor, who was certified as a master trainer, discusses training techniques with a group at a training of trainers session. Photo by Michelle Tolson.

Building the capacity of Afghanistan’s female trainers has been crucial to this success.   The master trainers develop their own professional skills and then empower other women job seekers and workers to do the same and land mid-level jobs and promotions.

Tamseela Tanovir, a 24-year-old master trainer, helped secure placements and promotions for female teachers in private schools.

Zainab Brommand, a 23-year-old master trainer, worked with private hospitals to help build the capacity women employees in hospital communications and management.

For the master trainers and the women they help to advance in the workforce, the program is opening new pathways and opportunities.

Haidare, who lived in the United Kingdom for 10 years, says she decided to return to Afghanistan to help women in her country advance and to find meaningful work herself, which she has found as a master trainer with the program.

“Here there are more opportunities to learn and grow,” she says. “We are doing work at a level that is not easy to find in the U.K.  I think AWDP is a wonderful opportunity for Afghans.”

Edited by Aziz Gulbahari and Jillian Slutzker

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