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Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities

Catholic Relief Services shares a long partnership with the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities, one of CRS' earliest and most consistent supporters. Continuing the legacy of John J. and Helena S. Raskob since its founding two decades ago, the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities has generously provided more than $1 million to a diverse range of CRS projects taking place around the world. Here's a snapshot of just one:

Women practice sewing skills

A woman works on her sewing skills at a CRS Community Development Center. She took a 6-month skills training course at the center where she learned sewing, business skills, literacy and healh and hygiene practices. Now, she's enrolled in a CRS self-help group where she and 5 other women continue honing their skills and help each other with their businesses. Photo by Jim Stipe for CRS

Homesteads to Markets: Afghan Refugee Women Improve Their Lives Through Skills Training

Since 2008, Afghan refugee women in Pakistan have benefited from a project that helps them develop weaving, embroidery, and basic math and literacy skills to earn an income and strengthen their long-term means for stability.

The Homesteads to Markets project takes place in Quetta, a Pakistan city 125 miles from the Afghan border. It is here where an estimated 4 million Afghans came as refugees after the 1979 Soviet invasion of their country. By now, nearly half of the refugees have returned to their country but, for the 2 million who remain in Quetta, their opportunities for stability and success are severely limited. In some rural areas of the country, only 2 percent of women are literate.

Thus, programs that help Afghan refugee women build their skills and cultivate a better life are vital, and can be transformative for the family. In the Homesteads to Markets project, women build their traditional weaving and embroidery skills to produce cloth and materials. At the same time, they learn basic literacy and math. Being literate and understanding basic arithmetic helps the women keep accountable records, recognize a fair price in the market, and more effectively negotiate with vendors.

To date, at least 240 Afghan refugee women have taken part in the Homesteads to Markets project. With benefits impacting other family members, we estimate the project reaches a total of 1,680 people.

Through June 2010, our CRS team in Quetta has seen the following project results:

  • 240 women trained in the quality design and finishing of their products
  • 240 women trained in basic literacy and math
  • Links developed between the women's training centers and market vendors (thanks to market exposure visits and product exhibitions)
  • 240 women benefited from health and hygiene classes

The involvement of men—husbands, fathers, market vendors and CRS staff—in all aspects of the project is vital, especially in the traditional context of Afghan refugee communities. CRS involves men in the market visits, and meets with them monthly to provide updates on project progress and upcoming activities.

For more information about the Raskob Foundation, please visit: www.rfca.org.

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