Today is the 102nd International Women’s Day and World Vision is celebrating by sharing stories about the extraordinary women we work with.
After three decades of warfare, Afghan women are taking reconstruction into their own hands. Shafiqa is one such woman. A 45-year-old widow and mother to five sons, she's an amazing example of someone who has endured difficult times and is dedicated to a better life for her children and others.
Afghanistan is one of the most challenging places in the world to be a
woman. One in 50 women will die during pregnancy or childbirth - one every two hours. And while women have more than five children on average, one out of 10 children dies before their fifth birthday.
good news is that these statistics have substantially improved in the
last few years and thanks to our generous supporters, World Vision has
played its part with our health programs.
When Shafiqa was 21, her husband was killed during the war. While Shafiqa was able to move in with her husband’s family, they tried to force her to marry her brother-in-law, a common practice in some parts of Afghanistan.
“I loved my husband, my conscience did not allow something like this so when I didn’t accept marriage with their son they threw me out of the house,” says Shafiqa.
Without any money or a family of her own Shafiqa moved with her children to an immigration camp. She began working three jobs a day, to fulfil her husband’s dream of educating their children.
Shafiqa worked hard to help her family get by, until the Taliban took over the country. During the rule of the Taliban women were forbidden to work, leave the house without a male escort or see a male doctor. Shafiqa was no longer able to go to work, so she earned an income sewing and washing clothes.
When Taliban rule ended, Shafiqa returned to work as a secretary at a small medical clinic. Her income was no longer enough to cover the needs of her family, until the head of the clinic told her about World Vision’s midwifery program.
World Vision has been running midwifery education programs in parts of Afghanistan since 2011 to help combat the high rates of maternal and child mortality. Thanks to World Vision’s supporters, the program is able to save lives as well as provide training and employment for women.
Shafiqa had dreamed of being a nurse as a child and was excited for the opportunity to help other women and children.
“First it was so hard, I studied, worked and took care of my children, but I dreamed of a lighter future,” she says. After graduation, Shafiqa found employment easily because of the lack of trained midwives.
Now Shafiqa works in a mobile clinic, visiting remote areas where there are no medical facilities. The only woman in her team, some of Shafiqa’s colleagues warn her that the work is too dangerous – but she finds joy in helping others.
“It is difficult to be far from family for one week but when people are happy to see us, I forget all difficulties,” she says.
The money she earns is more than enough to meet her family’s needs and Shafiqa has been able to begin saving for the future. With her youngest son about to finish high school, the days that Shafiqa and her husband once saw as a dream have now become a reality - thanks to her hard work and dedication to her children.
How you can help
You can support World Vision’s work to improve maternal and child health by supporting our Child Health Now campaign or our work helping the most vulnerable children with Child Rescue.
The focus for International Women's Day this year is child marriage - read about Untying the knot.