Women in Bamyan build a road with their bare hands

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

By Jaffar Rahim
March 11, 2009

One enterprising woman in Bamyan province has persuaded the women in her village to volunteer and build a road.

Zainab Rezai, 45, who returned from Iran four years ago, works as a midwife in the local hospital. She says didn't choose this profession because of economic reasons but because she saw the women in her district suffering from maternal mortality.

Just outside town in Darai Azdar, which means Dragon's Valley, the villagers had no proper transport connection to the main town. In response the women in the valley decided to take the matter into their own hands and picked up shovels to build a road.

"I gathered seventy women to volunteer and build the road. We were tired of waiting for the Government to respond to our request for a road," said Zainab Rezai, the head of the Women's Community Development Council in Darai Azdar village.

Bamyan province is home to two famous giant Buddhas destroyed by Taliban and the first national park of Band-i-Amir. But there are no paved roads to the neighbouring provinces and many isolated villages have no tracks for vehicles. Thousand of returnees are living with out basic infrastructure in refugee settlements and one of these refugee settlements is located in "Darai Azdar".

As head of the development council Rezai has implemented many infrastructure projects in her village: "We had many problems going to the town and that's why we first tried to persuade men to work on the road, when it didn't work women took up shovels in their own hands."

Rezai has implemented 20 infrastructure projects which include a sanitation and solar power project for a refugee settlement.

She says she faces many problems from her male council members: "Even this time when women started to work on the road they were stopping us and saying you are dishonouring the men," she said. "I told them it has nothing to do with honour; we are just trying to build our settlement."

Zainab Rezai is a mother to four children and one daughter recently graduated from University. She believes women have an important role in building society and says that educated mothers can bring up educated children and that's how society builds up.

Rezai is happy to build the road which will benefit 350 families, especially those who need to reach hospital easily.

Following Rezai's efforts a few NGOs have been attracted to Darai Azdar and there are now hygiene and literacy classes for women and girls are being taught computer literacy and science.

She says women in her village will not stop working until the men in the authority come to a decision. 


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