Finding a Common Ground in Kabul

Afghanistan, June 2, 2003

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    "The salary that Delary earns producing gabions for Mercy Corps goes to pay for food and household things. Her husband's salary pays the house rent." Photo: Mercy Corps. Photo:

Noorya and Delary don't have much in common. They live in the same sub-district of Kabul but they had never met or seen each other until they registered for work with Mercy Corps.

Noorya is 22 years old. She is literate and unmarried. In 1992, during serious fighting in Kabul, she left for Pakistan with her parents, grandparents and 14 siblings.

Delary is 35 years old. She is illiterate and has been married for 24 years. She has nine children between the ages of one and twenty years. She was not as lucky as Noorya. Her family was financially incapable of leaving Kabul during the years of fighting. She, her husband and children had no choice but to remain.

"We stayed through everything, unlike this one here," she says with a good-humored laugh at her friend Noorya. "It was terrible. My husband and I sometimes found work, but not always. He worked as a laborer and, for awhile, I was finding jobs painting designs on trucks and bicycles."

In Pakistan, Noorya worked for a private company producing gabions. Gabions are wire cages, which are later filled with stones and used to line and stabilize waterways.

A year ago, Noorya's family moved back to Kabul. Twenty-five people live in the six-room house owned by her family. Her father and brother found work as laborers. She found work with Mercy Corps producing gabions. "With the three of us working, we do OK. If any one of us loses our job then the difficulties begin."

The salary that Delary earns producing gabions for Mercy Corps goes to pay for food and household things. Her husband's salary pays the house rent. "Life is not perfect but we are able to eat and keep a roof over our heads, which is good."

Mercy Corps has trained 250 women to make gabions. They are used for canal rehabilitation projects. Thousands of people with no other means of income are hired to work on these and other labor-intensive projects in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.

"Besides the economic benefits, I think it is good that women in Afghanistan are making things which assist in the development of the country after war. Both men and women are needed for this task," Noorya says.

In Afghanistan, virtually everyone has lost family, land and their livelihoods as a result of war. "The situation got very serious and most of this area is still rubble on account of those years," Noorya comments. Perhaps one of the most severe effects of civil war, though, is the destruction of trust.

As Noorya runs off to collect her payment, she says, "People by themselves can't meet all the needs of their families or country but if both men and women work together we have a chance to improve and have peace."