A Real Home

She was a displaced person for 20 years: five years in her own country, followed by 15 years in Pakistan. She lived her life in tents and camps, always without a permanent home. Three years ago, she decided she had had enough: Bibi Wazir and her nephew went back home to Afghanistan, specifically to Muhajer in Balkh province. Bibi Wazir, now 45 years old, lost her husband in the war. She brought her sons up in refugee camps, who are each now married.

Several thousand people who are fleeing armed conflict and drought in their own country have settled in Muhajer. They are known as internally displaced people. And once again, Wazir – like her neighbours – lived in tents, in a camp without water or sanitation where it is blisteringly hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. ‘I spun wool by hand and sold the yarn to make a little money. It was a hard time once again,’ recalls Wazir, an energetic woman. 46 new homes signified a change for the people in Muhajer.

The German government is supporting not only displaced people and returning Afghan refugees but also the local people who have taken in all the newcomers. The local agencies of the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) are identifying the support needed. As a result, 555 homes have been built for families in need, and another 600 families have received building materials to refurbish existing houses. The German government provides support wherever it is most needed to supply drinking water, build sanitary facilities and roads, and construct and refurbish schools and community centres. People also have the opportunity to take part in vocational training courses. A total of 40,000 people have benefited since 2017.

Life for Wazir and her neighbours also changed suddenly: ‘We now have a real home with two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.’ But her new home is not the only thing making a difference to her life. Like many of the inhabitants of Muhajer, Wazir took up the vocational training offer. She had a choice of courses in mechanical spinning, tailoring and dressmaking, knitting, hairdressing, carpentry, midwifery, health counselling, literacy, and training for electricians and car mechanics, to name just a few. Wazir was in no doubt about what she wanted to do: ‘I have spun wool my entire life, so I definitely wanted to learn to spin on this machine!’ At the end of the course, the energetic Wazir was given a spinning machine of her own, as were all the other women who attended the course. ‘My machine runs on solar energy and has a battery,’ she explains with pride. ‘I am able to spin a pound of wool a day and sell the yarn. In the past it would have taken me a week to spin the same amount. I earn about 3,000 afghanis a month – enough for my nephew and me to live on,’ she adds. 3,000 afghanis are about 35 euros – an income which was inconceivable for Wazir before she got the spinning machine.

A new home, work, an income – for this woman with a sense of social commitment, it was also the starting point to turn her attention to the concerns of her new home community. Muhajer’s newly established women’s council meets regularly at her house. ‘We discuss all the problems women have to confront in their lives and in our community and try to find solutions to them,’ says Wazir, describing the work of the council. MoRR’s agencies support the women in organising the meetings and in putting into action any solutions they come up with.

Akhtar Mohammad, one of Wazir’s neighbours, took the opportunity to sign up for a course in car mechanics. His eyes light up as he says: ‘I have been doing the course for a month now and have already learnt a lot. I know all the tools and how to use them and can already do small repairs.’ The young man will continue to attend the course for another three months. He knows without a shadow of a doubt what he intends to do then: ‘I am going to open my own garage and earn money. I get a small wage even now during my training, which enables me to support my family.’

Stable living conditions and the opportunity to work and earn money have changed people in Muhajer. The fog of hopelessness, the feeling that things would never get better, has lifted and the refugees and local people in the host community are becoming closer. The future looks much brighter for everyone.

Publication: 05/2019
Programme: Integration of internally displaced people in northern Afghanistan
Commissioned by: German Federal Foreign Office (AA)
Partner: Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR)
Implementing organisation: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Provinces: Balkh, Jawzjan, Samangan
Programme objective: The perception that the Afghan authorities are an effective player in integrating internally displaced people in selected areas of northern Afghanistan is strengthened.

 

We now have a real home with two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.
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