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Perspective

Working against the odds: Mujda’s story

Mujda is a 25-year-old IRC aid worker, providing for her family and representing the strength of Afghan women. She has faced displacement, discrimination and tragedy, but is determined to carve out a brighter future.

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Mujda speaking with 43-year-old Gul Bashra who was forced to leave her home in the Nad Ali district with her children due to recent flooding. Photo: IRC

I was born in Helmand Province, in the South of Afghanistan. Even as a young girl, I knew I wanted to have a career that helped others. I’ve been lucky to have a family that have always supported me through my education and training. Sadly, there are many girls in Afghanistan who are being blocked from going to school – even by their own families. 

I work for the International Rescue Committee, responding to emergencies and assessing the needs of displaced families. I am especially proud of IRC’s focus on the empowerment of women and girls in my country.

My day-to-day job involves visiting displaced families in order to assess their needs. Through the data I collect, the IRC is able to provide families with cash relief. This means people have a choice of what they buy: families can purchase essential items like food, blankets, and afford to pay their rent.

I have also heard inspiring stories of families using cash relief to start small businesses like vegetable stands at markets and street vendors. They are empowered to decide where the money will be spent best.

48-year-old street vendor Khan Mohammad standing by his stall in Lashkargah city. Thanks to support from IRC, funded by ECHO, Khan can now provide for his family: “I was extremely happy for the assistance. Months ago, I lost everything.” Photo: IRC/Fawad Latifi

The long-lasting conflict is hitting the people of Afghanistan financially, as well as mentally and physically. People are being forced to move to places where they have no jobs. When they leave, they can’t take everything with them. Often, they’re leaving behind possessions and livestock. They are fleeing to places where with few opportunities, sometimes there are none at all.

I understand the challenges that many displaced people face, I’ve lived through it myself. When I was 13 years old, I was forced to flee with my family from my home in Helmand province. I remember it was an incredibly difficult decision of whether we should leave – but we had no choice. It took three years until I was able to return home.

As one of the only female members on the ECHO-funded project, my role is vital. Culturally, women talk to other women about their needs. 

But being a working woman in Afghanistan does not come without its challenges. I’ve faced criticism for having a job, with people believing women should not be working.

When I first began to work I was really concerned about these negative attitudes, but now they’re familiar to me. I have learnt how to deal with them.

A village in the Babajee area of Afghanistan destroyed by conflict. Photo: Raz Mohammad/IRC

Working for the IRC not only enables me to help change these beliefs and support women – but it also means I can provide for my family.

My father is currently suffering from cancer. It’s particularly difficult for our family because my older brother died from cancer when he was just 17 years old. The money I earn goes towards my father’s treatment. In two months time, he needs to go to India to receive the care as the health services cannot cater for his condition here. It makes me happy to know that I can help fund this trip. My father is really proud of me. He has always supported me.

Afghanistan has been in conflict for decades. Millions of people’s lives have been affected and many have lost their loved ones. It has left deep mental and physical scars on my country.

But despite everything, I continue to have hope: I hope that the fighting stops. I hope that my father gets better. I hope that girls can go to school. I hope that everyone can enjoy equal opportunity. Ultimately, I hope for peace.

The International Rescue Committee is able to provide cash assistance to displaced people in Afghanistan through support from the European Union.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.