Facing down adversity, single mum returnee makes a life for her family despite cultural challenges
Malalai (31) had been living in Pakistan as an undocumented migrant for more than a decade, but her life turned upside down earlier this year when her husband died in a car accident. She was forced to return to Afghanistan with her three children and was received by IOM at Spin Boldak border crossing. Once in Kandahar city, they were provided with food, COVID-19 protective materials, a family module, and received information on how to stay safe. The #Protection case worker also registered Malalai for further support. Malalai is originally from Faryab but due to ongoing conflict she doesn’t feel safe to return there – as a single mother, she faces a harsh cultural reality in Afghanistan which openly discriminates against and exposes women to harassment and worse without a male companion.
When IOM’s Protection case worker visited Malalai to understand the needs and protection threats she faced, they found her and her three children living in desperate conditions in a rented room, burning plastic to keep warm at night and surrounded by the rubbish her 13 year old son collected during the day to bring in a meagre income. Her daughter (11) was also not in school, and she couldn’t afford the rent, or medication for her baby.
The case worker immediately referred Malalai to WFP for food and provided cash assistance so she could buy warm clothes and medication. They also worked with Norwegian Refugee Council to obtain legal documentation so her children could be admitted to school without delay.
As a result, she’s been able to pay off the backdated rent, ensuring she doesn’t fall deeper into debt, and has enrolled both older children in school. Through an internal referral to IOM’s RADA (Reintegration and Development Assistance in Afghanistan) project, she has now started a vocational training programme to become a tailor and is earning a monthly stipend. She will receive tailoring equipment at the end of the course so she’s able to run her own business from home and provide a sustainable income for her family. Malalai says she’s grateful for the transparent support she’s received from IOM, and glad they could advocate for her #protection concerns.
IOM Afghanistan is supporting undocumented returnees to access essential Protection services thanks to the Swiss Government’s Ministry for Migration Management (SEM).