Afghan sewing factory offers lifeline to war widows

By: AFP      Published: 11:00 AM, 17 Mar, 2021
Afghan sewing factory offers lifeline to war widows

Dozens of women widowed by the Afghan war have been given a lifeline by the army, stitching military uniforms indistinguishable from the ones their husbands died in.

Around 120 women are employed by the defence ministry to make uniforms for servicemen and prisoners at a factory in Kabul.

Many are widows, but all are related to someone who was serving in the military and either died or was invalided out.

Roya Naimati, a 31-year-old with four children, was given an apartment in the capital and a job at the factory when her husband drowned in a river during a military operation.

"Initially I lost hope and was wondering how to feed and bring up my little children," she told AFP.

"I'm thankful to the defence ministry for this job."

With her five-year-old daughter next to her at the sewing machine, Naimati is now the breadwinner of her family, earning 12,000 Afghanis ($155) a month.

In deeply conservative Afghanistan, families usually rely on men for financial support.

Afghanistan has fought a two-decade insurgency by the Taliban since the Islamist militants were ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001.

Despite supposed peace talks between the warring sides, violence has surged across the country with thousands of soldiers and civilians killed.

The exact number of Afghan security personnel killed in the war is unknown, but in 2019, President Ashraf Ghani said more than 45,000 had "paid the ultimate sacrifice" since his election five years earlier.

"I feel sad when I'm sewing because this was the uniform my son was killed in," said 37-year-old Mahbooba Sadid Parwani.

"Though my son died, I am happy that other young people are fighting against the traitor Taliban."

Samira, who like many Afghans goes by one name, shares the same conflicting emotions provoked by the work that has allowed her to support her family. 

"The Taliban might wear this prisoner uniform that I'm sewing... I do not want to even touch it, but am helpless -- I have three children."