Trina Yakhdiwal has achieved something special. Less than one third of girls in Afghanistan receive an education. Few women complete vocational training, and even when they do or, if they are lucky enough to attend university, they frequently find it difficult to get a good job.
One reason for this is the lack of jobs – almost one quarter of Afghans do not find formal employment. Around 400,000 young people flood into the labour market every year, competing with each other for the best positions. Another reason is that working women in Afghanistan are frequently not viewed in a positive light.
This annoys Trina, who finished the 13th and 14th grades at a TVET-School and holds a BA in accounting from Balkh university in northern Afghanistan. While at TVET-School she was often asked whether her parents would allow her to work in an office. The young woman found this very frustrating. She worried about her future: ‘I found it hard to believe that I would one day have my dream job in public administration.’
But Trina is a determined young woman and had her parents’ support, who are her role models. Her mother works as a teacher and her father was a school principal in Mazar-e Sharif. ‘My father believed it was his duty to serve people. That is what I want to do, too.’
This gave her the courage she needed, and she jumped at the chance to train as an administrative officer in the field of accounting. A letter of recommendation from her faculty, her outstanding results and most importantly her practical experiences earned during an earlier internship at the TVET School opened doors.
Trina Yakhdiwal attended an internship programme implemented by the German Cooperation with Afghanistan. Since 2010, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has assisted the Afghan Government in setting up a practice-oriented vocational training system. The aim is to equip young people with the skills they need to negotiate the labour market and find work more quickly.
In this context, the programme works on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and adopts a multi-pronged approach that ranges from the development of trainers’ skills to fitting out schools and offering special training for women and men who are unable to read or write. 750 Afghan companies already offer internships under the programme. So far, around 43,500 young people have been trained, giving them the experience they need to find work.
Internships are frequently key to finding highly sought-after permanent employment. Trina Yakhdiwal’s colleague and mentor Haji Abdul Wahab Suliman Zada confirms this: ‘No one hires inexperienced staff. The theory that is taught at universities is far removed from what young people learn on-the-job. A lack of experience is a huge hindrance for job seekers.’ Trina seconds that – it was only during her internship that she learned how to professionally manage administrative processes.
The 26-year-old is not the only one to benefit from a internship. Many young people who were able to gain work experience in the Balkh provincial administration, in a different field or in a company have gone on to find a good position in the public and private sector.
Trina Yakhdiwal values many aspects of her job, such as her secure, protected work environment and her salary, which is good by Afghan standards. The administrative officer earns 12,000 Afghani per month, around three times more than the average wage. More importantly, however, her position in the administration and finance division improves her social standing, because Trina now contributes as much to the family income as her brothers. She therefore feels on par with the rest of her family.
As a man in Afghanistan, Mohammad Rahim Siyer enjoys an easier life. From a professional point of view however, he faced similar obstacles. Although he trained as a technician, which had always been his goal, he lacked practical experience. He dreamed of one day working in electrical engineering, a field where previous experience is important for health and safety, and is not just key to finding a job: ‘Working with electricity can be life-threatening,’ says the 24-year-old.
He also took advantage of the internship programme. ‘I knew very little about electricity before I started the programme. But the internship equipped me with essential practical skills for my day‑to‑day work. The mentors were superb. They had decades of experience and I learned a lot from them.’ Mohammad is convinced that he would not have found his current job with Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat – the state electricity provider – without the internship under his belt.
Mohammad and Trina agree that the programme offers young Afghans an opportunity not just to kick-start their career: ‘It also helps people and the Government of Afghanistan realise a better future,’ according to Trina Yakhdiwal. She adds: ‘Administrative bodies and companies now have access to an entire generation of enthusiastic, committed young professionals.’ For Suliman Zada, Trina’s mentor, this is a personal wish come true. The 70-year-old administrative officer retired four years ago but had to return to work because he was indispensable. ‘I think I have done my bit,’ he says. ‘I am handing the baton over to the younger generation. It is now their turn to bring progress, development and happiness to Afghanistan.’
Programme: Supporting Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Partner: Afghan TVET Authority
Implementing Organisation: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, KfW Development Bank
Provinces: Nationwide (31 out of 34 provinces)
Programme Objective: To establish an efficient vocational school system