Jobs for Afghan women in construction increase stability & income

By Michelle Tolson and Aziz Gulbahari

January 13, 2016

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan –Though Sanam Rahmani, a 22-year-old mother of a one-year-old son, had to migrate with her husband from Afghanistan’s rural northern Faryab province due to insecurity, she considers herself to be fortunate.

Through a training program supported by the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program, she now has work at Yadgar Construction Co. It could not have come at a better moment.

“This job literally saved our life as it is my family’s main support,” says Rahmani, whose husband only has irregular work as a drivers’ assistant due to the challenging economic situation in the country.

The Afghanistan Workforce Development Program—which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International—trains Afghans in skills that are in demand by private sector employers, such as project and financial management, marketing and information and communications technology.

In 2013, the Afghanistan Workforce Development Project conducted a Labor Market Survey that identified employer demands for specific skills in the construction industry, including software project management skills, financial management and general business skills.

A labor market survey conducted by USAID in 2011 found that the construction sector was in need of mid-level workers, previously hired from countries such as Pakistan and India. By hiring locally, employers build Afghanistan’s workforce and reduce construction costs.

To date, the program has trained more than 26,000 men and women in multiple industries across six major cities in Afghanistan. It has placed or promoted, with salary increases, more than 17,000 skilled workers. Thirty-six percent of those trained, placed or promoted are women.

Finding stability through employment

A USAID-supported construction sector training program in Primavera software for women in Mazar-e-Sharif city in July 2015. (Credit: USAID/AWDP)

While still living in her home province, Rahmani had been enrolled in a two-year teacher training institute to teach Uzbek literature at local schools. However, when her institute closed last spring because of threats from the Taliban, Rahmani had only completed a little over a year of training.

She, her husband and son fled to her parent’s home in Mazar-e-Sharif.

As she and her husband searched for work, a friend told her about a training program in the construction sector especially for women, facilitated by Mhair Educational and Human Rights Organization, a grantee of the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program.

The 20-day course in July 2015 taught her how to use specialized software to help manage construction projects.

Shortly after the course, Rahmani’s training provider helped her find work with a construction company, where she has been performing mid-level administrative work since August.

The 19 other women who completed the course with Rahmani were also placed in administrative positions in construction in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Rahmani says she is content with her new position, and believes her employer is also very satisfied with her performance.

“I feel my employer is happy with my work as he has never expressed any complaint and I am helpful to the organization,” says Rahmani.

Though she is a recent hire, her employer has already raised her salary by four percent.  The stability of her work is also allowing her to renew her studies and begin midwifery training.

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