The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

Supporting her husband in sickness and in health

Hangama sold all the gold jewellery from her wedding to save money for her sick husband’s medical treatment, and now she’s supporting her family by baking bread.

Her husband Mohammad Azim, a tailor, used to be the main income earner in their family, but was diagnosed with cancer in early 2015 and can no longer work.

Doctors in Afghanistan referred Azim to hospitals in India and Pakistan, but the cost of treatment was too high, so he returned disappointed and in a deteriorating condition.

We sold our house to raise funds. My husband also had some savings from working in Iran and his brother gave us some money, but it still wasn't enough. We asked if there was anything else we could do to treat the illness and the doctors said he should eat lots of meat, fruit and vegetables, but these things are expensive and we can't afford them all the time.

With two sons to support, Hangama wakes up early each morning to bake bread and cookies at a bakery, established as part of a Sweden-funded rural roads project in four provinces of northern Afghanistan.

The project provided equipment, training and wages for 20 women during the bakery's first four months, after which the group had saved enough money to buy their own ingredients and sustain the business.

As a shura, or community leader in her village, Hangama said the women were enthusiastic to be trained in baking, management and marketing – entrepreneurial skills they didn't have before.

On an average day, they bake between 300 and 400 Afghan flat breads and often cater for events such as weddings, providing a small but significant income for Hangama, who doesn't even have parents to support her.

My husband can't work – his health is too poor. Sometimes he gets chest pain and can't walk even a few hundred meters, or pick up our two-year-old son

All Hangama can do for now is continue working to save as much money as she can for Azim's treatment, while relying on kind contributions from their relatives.

Project details

The Rural Access Improvement Project has generated more than one million person days of labour for local people, including the creation of jobs for women in tailoring, embroidery and baking, among other income generating activities.

Funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and implemented by UNOPS, the project is connecting remote communities to essential services and markets through the construction and rehabilitation of roads.

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