Afghan bag factory helps disabled workers find hope

Afghan bag factory helps disabled workers find hope
Afghan bag factory helps disabled workers find hope

Tens of thousands of people have been maimed and disabled during decades of conflicts in Afghanistan with over 650,000 disabled people currently living in the country, about 2.7 percent of the total population.

Making a living is especially difficult for those people in wartorn nation where employment is already extremely scarce. But in Kabul, a special bag factory is changing many disabled people’s lives by offering them job opportunities.

The Simah factory is located in the western suburbs of Kabul and has over 50 workers working in the small workshop with eight sewing machines.

Forty-five-year-old Mohammed Ali lost his left leg in an airstrike in 2002. He fell into a deep despair, considering it impossible for disabled people like him to find a job. However, at his most depressed time, the Simah factory lifted his spirits, giving him the chance to return to work and help him through the pain. Ali has now worked here for almost ten years.

“This factory gave me a chance to prove I’m still useful. I can earn some money everyday to support my family,” said Ali.

The factory offers a monthly wage of over 10,000 Afghanis (about 150 U.S. dollars), a major source of revenue for Afghans who have been crushed by poverty.

Ali said it’s all thanks to Aliyar Hoshmand, the factory owner. Hoshmand lost one of his legs in an anti-narcotics operation when he worked as an anti-drug police officer. He tried to apply for several jobs but was repeatedly turned away due to his disability.

After his friends helped him through the hard times, he decided to open his own factory.

“I experienced the difficulties of life in those times when I was jobless. For some days I didn’t even have food to eat. After that, I felt I should do something for those people like me,” Hoshmand said.

With the support of the government, friends and family, Hoshmand’s factory was able to open. After years of development, the factory has increased from employing just a few workers to now having over 50.

However, Hoshmand’s business has been largely impacted by the deteriorating situation in recent months, especially with the Taliban’s occupation over the northern Kunduz province since September.

“Most of our bags were sold to Kunduz and other northern regions before. But Kunduz has become the biggest headache for all businessmen. Especially for us, because it means our sales are gone,” Hoshmand said.

To maintain the business, Hoshmand is travelling across nearby regions by motorcycle to find new markets. Although there are big challenges for the factory’s survival, Hoshmand said he won’t give up and believes the factory will be able to pick itself up from these low times someday.

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