Nasrin was barely in Kindergarten when the Taliban came and her schooling ended abruptly. At 10 years old she was forcefully engaged to a man she barely knew. Four years later she was married and quickly gave birth to her first son. Now 21 years old, she’s a mother of four boys. She is also an entrepreneur.

Farzana is the mother of five children. She and her husband were kicked out of his parent’s house after they were married. She as 15 years old, her husband was 21. They went to Pakistan but there was barely any work. Her husband worked as a day laborer but an accident permanently damaged his right foot and he’s no longer able to walk long distances. They returned to Afghanistan but still struggled to find work. Until now.

Both women have recently completed War Child Canada’s program in Jalalabad, Afghanaistan, which provides them and 200 other women in the region with basic literacy and numeracy training, business skills, vocational training and microfinance loans. What’s unique about the program is the type of microfinance.

Interest is not permitted under Islam, meaning that women cannot take traditional microfinance loans. Adapting to the context, War Child Canada provides loans on a Murabaha based system. The system sees the women provided with the tools and equipment they need to start their businesses, instead of being provided directly with cash. The women then pay back the value of the equipment combined with an agreed administration fee. The unique approach has received wide support from the community, including Mullahs (religious leaders) who recently asked for the program to expand; religious leaders asking for more women to be educated and join the work force.

Nasrin is excited to able to provide for herself, her husband and her children. Most importantly she sees hope for the future. “I can provide for my children now,” she says, “I could not go to school because of Taliban. My children are all in school and I want them to be doctors or engineers.”

Farzana, who herself enjoyed learning math through War Child’s program, echoes Nasrin’s hopes for the future. “My children have already learned so many things. I want them to study and have a good life.”

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