- Afghan women in Peshawar’s workshop learn garment crafting skills from Mahra Basheer.
- Mahra established the centre due to the influx of Afghan refugees and offers various courses.
- Pakistan faces an increasing number of Afghan arrivals, causing concern for the government.
In a quaint workshop situated in the vibrant northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, a dozen Afghan women attentively observe an instructor demonstrating the art of garment crafting using sewing machines.
This skills centre was established last year by Mahra Basheer, a 37-year-old resident of Peshawar, who was moved by the steady influx of individuals from neighbouring Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has been grappling with an economic crisis and increasing restrictions on women since the Taliban assumed control in 2021.
In her pursuit of creating avenues for women to attain financial independence, Mahra initiated this workshop, offering instruction in tailoring, digital skills, and beauty treatments. To her surprise, the response was overwhelming, with hundreds of women enrolling and a substantial waiting list.
Mahra expressed her vision, stating, “With adequate support, I believe we can concurrently train anywhere from 250 to 500 students, empowering women who can play pivotal roles within their communities.”
Authorities report that hundreds of thousands of Afghans have crossed into Pakistan following the withdrawal of foreign forces and the Taliban’s takeover in 2021.
Even before this, Pakistan was home to approximately 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees, constituting one of the world’s largest refugee populations, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
Additionally, it is estimated that over a million unregistered Afghans reside in the country. Faced with its own economic challenges, the Pakistani government has grown increasingly concerned about the influx of Afghan refugees, leading to numerous arrests of Afghans in recent months over allegations of improper legal documentation for residing in Pakistan.
Mahra Basheer underscores her primary objective of expanding opportunities for Afghan women, while also extending the program to include Pakistani women in order to enhance their prospects in this conservative region.
Upon completing the three-month course, these women are determined to earn modest yet meaningful incomes, often venturing into entrepreneurship.
Nineteen-year-old Fatima, an Afghan citizen who completed the training at the centre, expressed her aspirations. She now aims to establish a beauty salon in Peshawar, an ambition prohibited in her homeland just a few hours away.
“At present, my plan is to launch a home-based salon, and then progress professionally to eventually establish a larger salon of my own,” she revealed.
Share your thoughts in the comments below.