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Afghan Secure Futures Initiative

by on Nov 1, 2013  |  posted in Youth  |  0 Comments
The first time Najib, a 16-year old Afghan apprentice at a metal workshop, received classroom-based education was through the Afghan Secure Futures (ASF) initiative.  Prior to his apprentice job he made little money selling candy on the street.  In the apprenticeship, Najib earns twice what he was earning on the street. In Afghanistan, apprenticeships are a common way for youth to gain income generating skills, with most entering apprenticeships around the age of 13 or 14.  Afghanistan’s construction industry employs many youth apprentices, building valuable trade skills; however, the quality of apprenticeships can vary. Risks of a low-quality apprenticeship may include youth foregoing formal education, physical injury, or becoming trapped in a situation with no learning or advancement opportunities. ASF aimed to indirectly benefit apprentices by linking small informal workshops in the construction sector to larger market players.  ASF’s main initiatives included:
  • Enabling businesses to improve the quality and quantity of their work by increasing the number and diversity of contracts for micro and small enterprises (MSEs) working in the construction sector and employing youth apprentices.  According to apprentices, increased business revenue corresponded to an increase in their income.
  • Working with small businesses to improve their operations, including addressing workplace health and safety issues.  Most ASF workshop owners (98.92%) reported a reduction in workplace accidents.
  • Working with a local education organization to provide functional literacy and numeracy classes for apprentices who were not attending school.  Approximately 220 apprentices attended these classes regularly in 2011.
ASF targeted Afghan boys aged 12 to 18 located in the capital city of Kabul who worked in informal workshops (or MSEs) as apprentices, either full-time or part-time.  It was implemented by Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) under the STRIVE project, which is funded by USAID’s Displaced Children and Orphans Fund (DCOF), and managed by FHI 360. Q&A with Jennifer Denomy of MEDA: Q: What tangible or intangible outcomes did the ASF project have on participants’ wellbeing? A: ASF had significant impacts on over 300 workshops and over 1000 apprentices in Kabul.  A few key results to highlight:
  • Almost 4 in 5 apprentices (78%) reported that their monthly income increased.  MEDA’s monitoring data indicated that apprentices earned an average of USD9 per month at the beginning of the project and USD20 per month two years later.
  • Apprentices reported feeling much safer in their workplaces.  Our data showed a 93% increase in safety equipment provided by the workshop owner.
  • Workshop owners reported a significant increase in contracts secured for their products:  over the three year project, workshops reported an estimated $2,292,220.00 USD.  ASF’s role in supporting workshop owners to secure contracts included:  providing training; facilitating contacts between workshops and contractors; and connecting workshop owners to each other, facilitating the process of subcontracting, or joint bids by multiple workshops.    
Q: From your point of view, what was the most surprising lesson learned or finding from the ASF initiative? A: Despite research that showed demand for credit among workshop owners, very few loans were disbursed.  The loans were sharia compliant, meaning they met the standards of Islamic lending and had been endorsed by local religious authorities.  However, other restrictions – including requirements from the MFIs for documentation of land holdings and a mistrust of credit generally – made the loans unattractive or impossible for many business owners. For more information on STRIVE and the Afghan Secure Futures (ASF) initiative, check out ASF's Activity Brief and www.microlinks.org/strive.   STRIVE is a 6.5-year, $16 million program funded by USAID’s Displaced Children and Orphans Fund (DCOF) and managed by FHI 360. The program aims to fill current knowledge gaps about effective economic strengthening approaches and their impact on reducing the vulnerability of children and youth. In partnership with Action for Enterprise (AFE), ACDI/VOCA, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) and Save the Children, STRIVE is implementing four economic strengthening projects in Africa and Asia between 2008 and 2014. Coupled with a robust monitoring and evaluation framework and learning strategy, STRIVE is documenting the impacts of these diverse interventions on children. This post is a part of a series of blogs highlighting activities implemented under the STRIVE project, which will be featured in a lunch panel at the SEEP 2013 Conference on November 7.  

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