Poverty keeps women, girls from school in Bamyan
BAMYAN CITY (PAN): The number of women toiling away alongside their husbands in the fields, construction and other hard labour is increasing in central Bamyan province, with many having to give up school to contribute to the family’s finances.
Zahra, 36, lives in Surkh, and says she has worked as a farmhand for the past eight years.
“I am busy with agricultural work and in the winter I take care of my livestock,” she said.
Zahra’s husband is a farmer, but cannot do all of the work on his own, so Zahra and their 11-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son also help out.
The work is hard and they have to till the land by hand as they cannot afford a tractor to plow their fields.
She says they own eight acres of farmland and she helps by sowing and harvesting the potatoes, reaping the alfalfa and leading the bulls through the fields.
Bamyan is an agricultural province so most people live off their land, with potatoes the number one crop. Women labour alongside men, scything grass from the mountain and gathering food for the animals.
Poverty means that many girls have had to stop their schooling to help out in the fields.
Fatima, 20, a resident of Saeed Abad village, said: “I studied up to grade eight and then my father asked me to leave school so I could help him with farming so that our lives will improve.”
She says her father is elderly, and does not have a son, so it is down to Fatima to help with sowing and harvesting the potatoes.
Her mother and other sisters also help out.
“I liked studying and I wanted to become a teacher, but because of our poverty I was not able to pursue my studies.”
Fatima says the government should hold literacy courses for women who have not been able to go to school so that they can contribute in a more lucrative way to their family’s needs.
Fatima Kazimyan, the head of women’s affairs department in Bamyan, also said the number of women working alongside their husbands in the fields has increased in the province.
She said there were no statistics for the number of women performing hard labour, but based on her knowledge, she estimated that about half the female population was working as either a farm labourer, sheep herder or in construction.
She said that the only alternative was to provide literacy, tailoring, rug and carpet weaving courses so that the woman could choose a different way of supporting their families.
Families who have returned from Iran and Pakistan and who live in Mulla Ghulam, Sang Chaspan, Zargaran areas and around the Buddha statues, gain their livelihood from carpet weaving.
“We try to educate all women throughout Bamyan province,” Kazimyan said.
Education also helped to decrease the incidents of violence against women, she said, as women were more aware of their rights.
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