Jamila (45) has managed to keep her children in school despite the economic hardship caused by the loss of her husband. The only breadwinner in the family was killed during a Taliban raid in Nimroz province two years ago. Although her two eldest sons are away, Jamila keeps her five daughters fed and off to school every day, despite the challenges, pain, and threat of terrorism.
“A special joy and happiness happened to me this morning. The Zamani Foundation team came and helped us, took my girls to the kindergarten, and enrolled them so they can gain better education and knowledge and don’t feel poor, but feel happy,” said Jamila.
The Zamani Foundation was established with a mission to inspire the next generation so that they can bring positive change in their vulnerable communities. As part of its philanthropic movement of “Keep Learning, Keep Growing,” Jamila’s children are enrolled in kindergarten so they can learn and develop skills needed for success.
As a little girl, Jamila grew up in the midst of war in the early 1980s in Farah province. She never imagined that one day her children would be born under the same circumstances and that she would lose her husband violently. Life is undoubtedly hard for Jamila, so she made the trek to Kabul to settle close to her brother.
As it currently stands, she lives in a three-bedroom apartment in Emirates township — a complex that was built for lower-income residents in the 15th district of Kabul, near the mountains. Jamila spends half of her 8,000 Afghanis (approximately $100 USD) on rent while she uses the rest to buy food, pay bills and buy clothing for her five children.
Shortly after the loss of her husband, Jamila’s 21-year-old son, who would have graduated from school by now, turned to drugs due to the pain of losing his father. Her 14-year-old son left home a few months later and is now considered missing. With one son missing and the other suffering from addiction, Jamila and her five daughters live with the hope that her children can grow up and become educated.
Jamila is an example of the thousands of Afghans who have suffered tremendously due to the prolonged Afghan conflict. One in four families has lost a family member. Jamila is the product of war in the 1980s while her children are shaped by the War on Terror. Peace talks in Doha are full of uncertainty so it is unknown whether Jamila’s grandchildren will grow up in peace.
Despite all this hardship, Jamila has a message for the Taliban, “You cannot take the pain that I feel every day with my children, but you can prevent more families from experiencing what we go through.” She added, “I want our leaders to stop fighting and start building our country.”
Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries with 54.2% of its population living below the poverty line. Rapid population growth, particularly after the War on Terror, occurred as the standard of living increased just as resources such as clean water and health care became more accessible. Once home to 9 million in the 1960s, contemporary Afghanistan has nearly 39 million citizens, and it is expected to reach 63.8 million by 2050. Since 2001, 18 million have been born and raised in one of the ugliest wars in Afghan history, marked by suicide bombings and deadly explosions.
The conflict has profoundly impacted Afghans. In the last 10 years, over 100,000 Afghans have been killed or wounded. On average, 109 Afghans are killed each day on both sides of the conflict. In the words of President Ashraf Ghani, 45,000 Afghan soldiers have been killed just in the last two years of the National Unity Government (NUG). Jamila’s husband was a victim of this surging violence.
The Zamani Foundation has helped over 10,000 families in communities across the globe, specifically 9 countries on 5 continents. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, over 154,940 supplies have been distributed throughout the United States and Afghanistan. One of the foundation’s most effective programs in developing states focuses on youth empowerment through educational initiatives, such as the Kabul Street Kids project that enrolls orphans in school so they can continue their education.
While humanitarian organizations like the Zamani Foundation offer emergency aid and implement educational programs that help vulnerable communities in Afghanistan, a sustainable formula to save lives and end poverty is only possible once the conflict ends. This allows people to maximize their full potential in terms of the labor market and productivity.
Author’s Note: I spent approximately four months in Kabul and was introduced to this particular family through a contact. Thanks to Zamani Foundation, on October 14, this family received three months’ worth of food and supplies and two of her children were enrolled in kindergarten. The war has scarred the hearts of many Afghans and it is disheartening to see even more families losing loved ones to suicide bombings, Taliban attacks and rising organized crime. If you can, give a hand to those in need.
Ahmad Mohibi is the Founder of Rise to Peace
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