Building up self-reliance and livelihoods of Afghani women

The story of one woman helping to improve the rights of women

Mushtari Hesari, a teacher and trainer, believes that all women should be given opportunities to get education and training so that they can help support their families. ©FAO/Azizyar


“Now not only have I managed to support my family economically but I have also gained many life skills that have assisted me to generate an income, educate my children and help them have a better future,” says Mushtari Hesari, a mother of four children living in the Parwan province of Afghanistan. She believes that if she can be a self-sufficient woman, others can be too.

While women are equal in number to men in Afghanistan, their participation in socio-economic affairs is negligible. Women are not fully involved in many issues due to cultural norms, lack of literacy and education on certain socio-economic topics. Mushtari believes that if better opportunities are provided to women, they can provide considerable support to a household’s economy.

Mushtari Hesari explaining methods of food production to the women at the training center. ©FAO/Azizyar

Mushtari lives in a place where women are rarely involved in making decisions about their life and their future. Economically, they are very dependent on the male members of the family. However, as an educated woman who graduated from the faculty of literacy, Mushtari always thought of improving the lives and livelihoods of the women in her community. This led her to take the next step and do something for the women in her community.

Mushtari started by running a literacy class where she was teaching basic reading and writing skills to the women of her society. However, that alone was not enough to bring about changes in the lives of other women.

Mushtari then attended a five-day FAO training course on the establishment of dairy cooperatives, cattle management and good agricultural practices. She became an active member of the Integrated Dairy Scheme (IDS) project and started her work as a trainer in the field in 2014. She also had a chance to participate in an exposure visit to India that helped her expand her knowledge.

After completing the training, Mushtari started sharing her knowledge and experience with other women in the community. At the beginning, it was very difficult for her to convince the families of the women to allow them to attend training classes. However, as time passed, people in the community realized that creating opportunities for women can help them have sustainable income sources and improve their livelihoods.

Mushtari Hesari explaining hygienic food production practices to women in her community. ©FAO/Azizyar

Thanks to the IDS project, Mushtari has proudly trained more than 1 000 women in cattle management and good agricultural practices. She has also formed self-help groups with the aim to generate income and build the financial capacity of these women. Through these groups, poor and marginalized women get together and help each other to solve their problems. They have also set up a group saving boxes, where they collect and save their money and use it in times of need or when they want to start a small business. Mushtari has managed to establish 54 women self-help groups, consisting of 20-25 members per group on average, across the Parwan province.

“The women in these groups have their vegetables and milk to sell and generate income. This has helped them support their families and send their children to school,” says Mushtari proudly. These women are also generating additional income by selling their homemade products in local markets and at exhibitions.

Mushtari has become a role model to many other women in her community and outside of it. Ensuring that women have access to education and opportunities is central to the Sustainable Development Goals and crucial to ensuring food security and fruitful livelihoods. It is also the goal of FAO to support women like Mushtari to bring about this change.

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1. No poverty, 5. Gender equality, 8. Decent work and economic growth