By: Desk of Reporters
Lying in his mother arms and when rocket hit their house, Matiullah was only two and a half years old, a UNDP-Afghanistan has published an article, key parts of which are excerpted by The Kabul Times Desk of Reporters.
An ear-piercing blast not only rocked their house, but collapsed its ceiling in a shower of wood and earth on them, with nothing being seen in the heavy cloud of dust.
Matiullah and his mother were injured in the deadly explosion.
Though, the rocket landed at their house in 1992, at the start of the country’s long and bloody civil war, and left Matiullah with mental and physical scars, as well as a permanent disability. After that, his mother took her family to Pakistan to escape the violence. The young Matiullah sold water on the streets for two rupees a glass, and later sold food at the market.
After the security situation improved in 2008, the family moved back to Afghanistan.
Today, Matiullah, 29, lives with his father in the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan.
His fears of lifelong unemployment did not come to pass. Instead, early in 2019, an elder in his village told him about a training program in a local garment factory and encouraged him to apply.
UNDP’s Support Afghanistan Livelihoods and Mobility (SALAM) project, implemented by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, and funded by the Government of Finland, is creating real difference in the lives of vulnerable people of Afghanistan.
The SALAM project supports trainees for six months. The first three months is on-the-job training, where the Afghanistan Centre for Excellence (ACE), a job-creation contractor of the SALAM project, is responsible for paying the wages.
“I was so thankful that the SALAM project helped me achieve my dream of becoming a tailor,” Matiullah says.
He’s learning to make shirts, suits, and graduation uniforms and is now making a far better living than he did when he was a refugee in Pakistan. He received US$120 for the first two months and US$180 for the third month. Once trainees successfully complete three months, the second phase of job placement begins. When employed, ACE pays 30 percent of the salary and the employer picks up the remainder.
The money is an important source of pride and self-esteem for Matiullah, because he can now support his loved ones.
“I am earning and fulfilling the whole family’s needs,” he says.
As Matiullah sees his options expand, he has increased the scale of his ambition, hoping to use and build on his skills to eventually become a business owner.
“I have plans for the future,” he says. “I would like to open a small tailoring shop of my own.”
There are 25 trainees working at the factory, and most of them are likely to end up permanently employed there.
Facing poor prospects, for economic or other reasons, talented and educated Afghans have in the past chosen to migrate to neighboring countries. Many are now returning. The SALAM project hopes to provide a path for returnees and internally displaced persons to find fulfilling work and prosperity. The project makes a special effort to include vulnerable groups such as women, young people and those living with disabilities.
“Like me, there are many others living with disabilities. Old and young people are unemployed. I ask the SALAM project to continue their work; help all these poor people, just like they helped me,” he says.
The people of Afghanistan call Jalalabad the ‘evergreen’ city, due to its temperate climate. It’s known for its citrus fruit, cane-processing, honey, olive processing, sugar-refining and paper-making industries.
The SALAM project is rapidly expanding throughout the city. Three hundred people are receiving training in entrepreneurship, 600 men and women benefit from vocational training, and 200 have participated in job-creation programs.
Having experienced unemployment himself, Matiullah would like to be an inspiration to everyone he knows. His message to others is, “Never lose hope and don’t give up on life easily. Be brave — you can do more than you can imagine.”