Supporting Entrepreneurship in Rural Afghanistan
Hakimullah (23) was born as a refugee in Haripur Refugee Camp in Mansehra district in Pakistan. His parents came to Pakistan in 1979, crossing the Durand Line to flee the Soviet invasion. There were hundreds of families like his at the Camp, many of them without proper documentation. With restricted freedom of movement and limited access to basic services, refugees like Hakimullah could not attend the school and lived each day with the looming threat of being deported to a country they had never set foot in. Surviving merely on foreign aid, Hakimullah recalls of the discrimination he and his family faced in Pakistan.
“As refugees we had very limited access to basic services of health and education. Hospitals often refused to treat or admit refugees like me. There was no proper shelter. My father used to work as a daily wager to make the ends meet,” says Hakimullah.
Fearing the deportation, Hakimullah’s family decided to return to their homeland in 2012. On their arrival, the family of 20 faced many hardships in their native village in Laghman. There was no shelter or source of income. His family who had lived over 30 years in a foreign country also found it difficult to adjust to a new social environment often ravaged by insecurity.
Soon after the return, Hakimullah began working at a metal shop in Laghman to support his family. He was only fifteen when he started his first job. Making a meagre income, he kept learning new skills and found a new job at a gas production company few years later.
It was during an awareness campaign conducted by IOM in his community earlier this year when Hakimullah came to know about IOM’s start-up assistance under Reintegration Assistance and Development in Afghanistan (RADA) programme. Over the years, Hakimullah had learnt technical skills needed for the production of gas stoves. IOM’s start-up assistance gave him a hope to start his own business. He took no time to apply for the support.
“When IOM selected me for the start-up support. I could not hide my excitement. After years of working as a daily wager for others, starting my own business transformed me from a laborer to an entrepreneur,” says an optimistic Hakimullah.
IOM works to stimulate entrepreneurship and employability in a combination of support to start- up businesses including machinery, access to finance, and skills and vocational training in communities of high return. Hakimullah received machinery and equipment from IOM to set up his company. The assistance not only created sustainable source of income for Hakimullah’s but also provided employment for four more returnees from his community.
“Four returnees are working in my company. I am happy to be able to create employment for others in my community. I have named my company, Eftikhar Afghan Gas Stove Making Company. Eftikar in local language means ‘being proud.’ I want to work hard to make my family and community feel proud of me,” smiles Hakimullah.