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A vocational school in Pakistan is empowering Afghan women refugees by assisting them in establishing their own businesses.

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A vocational school in Pakistan is empowering Afghan women refugees by assisting them in establishing their own businesses.

In Peshawar, a skills center was established last year by Mahra Basheer, a 37-year-old resident of the city. Witnessing the continuous influx of people from neighboring Afghanistan, where economic difficulties and increased restrictions on women have arisen since the Taliban assumed control in 2021, she was inspired to take action.

With the aim of providing women with opportunities for financial independence, she launched the workshop, offering instruction in tailoring, digital skills, and beauty treatments. Basheer was met with an overwhelming response, with hundreds of women enrolling and a lengthy waiting list. She expressed, "With some assistance, I believe we can train anywhere from 250 to 500 students simultaneously, empowering women who can play a significant role in their communities."

Officials report that hundreds of thousands of Afghans have migrated to Pakistan since the withdrawal of foreign forces and the Taliban's takeover in 2021. Even prior to these events, Pakistan was home to approximately 1.5 million registered refugees, constituting one of the world's largest refugee populations, as per the United Nations refugee agency. An additional estimated one million Afghan refugees reside in Pakistan without formal registration.

Facing its own economic challenges, Pakistan's government has grown increasingly concerned about the influx of Afghan arrivals, with reports of scores of Afghans being detained in recent months due to alleged insufficient legal documentation for living in Pakistan.

Basheer emphasized her primary focus on expanding opportunities for Afghan women and has also included some Pakistani women in the program to enhance their prospects in the conservative region. Upon completing the three-month course, the women are dedicated to earning a modest yet meaningful income, often by establishing their own businesses.

Nineteen-year-old Afghan citizen Fatima, who received training at the center, expressed her ambition to open a beauty salon in Peshawar—something currently prohibited in her home country just a few hours away. She shared her plans, saying, "Right now, my goal is to start a salon at home, then work professionally to eventually open a large salon of my own."

Tayyaba Dua

Tayyaba Dua