Afghanistan today: She feeds her children by selling jam

Many families in Afghanistan go to bed hungry. Mission East is training women to support themselves and their families.

Sayerah, a 35-year old Afghan woman, remembers with horror the time before she started her own small business. “It was so awful and scary. My husband is a day labourer, but often there was no work, and it was difficult for us to get just one decent meal a day for our nine children,” she says. Sayerah could only dream of winter clothes and other necessities.

High child mortality

Sayerah lives with her family in Badakhshan in Northern Afghanistan. Life in the high mountains is tough: Bitterly cold winters, scorching hot summers, recurring natural disasters and conflicts that force people away. Most women must endure more than a handful of child births, and many children do not survive their first year. The high child mortality rate is caused by water borne diseases and poor nutrition. Mission East is therefore working in the area to establish water systems, organize hygiene education and secure a livelihood for the families.

An efficient type of self sufficiency

To be able to support her family, Sayerah joined one of Mission East’s food groups. The women are trained to process food and to establish their own small businesses. The method has proved efficient in providing a livelihood for poor families in the mountains. When the women have received some training and start-up help, they show a lot of drive and enthusiasm for selling the food products they make. This provides them with funds to support their families.

50 glasses of preserve per week

“When the project started, I wondered what I could gain from it. How would I be able to start a business without any capital? But Mission East helped me with the business plan and gave us some raw materials, we could start out with,” Sayerah says. She now produces about 50 glasses of pickled vegetables, tomato sauce and cherry preserve per week. Her husband sells them at local markets and to byers. The family makes about 100 Euro per month from this business which enables Sayerah’s nine children to eat proper meals every day. “I can also buy winter clothes for my children, schooling and a few cosmetics for myself. I thank Mission East and Denmark for helping poor people like us,” she concludes.

The original Danish language version of this article was published in a special edition of the Mission East magazine to commemorate the organisation's 25-year Jubilee in November 2016.