The Saffron Ladies

In a land devastated by war saffron flowers, and new life and new hope is emerging for a few. Here we produce some short paragraphs relating the life of these persons, women who are working on a pilot project involving the cultivation of saffron in the fields near to Herat, in Afghanistan. These are women striving to achieve that level of emancipation denied to them by an oldfashioned, violent, and distorted masculine force. We have changed the names of the women, the stories of whom we tell, so as to not put them at risk.

Azar, just like the majority of Afghan women, did not go to school, and thoughts of University are clearly out of place. It is sad to note that in Afghanistan women enjoy no consideration. Therefore it was difficult for Azar to find a job, indeed any type of work which would permit a level of subsistence. She lost her husband, killed in a fierce battle between the Taleban and foreign troops near Herat. She is 26 years old and has 4 children. It is a common state of being here – husbandless and having to support a number of children. She seeks to make ends meet by working in the fields of her village. She wouldn’t have the money to attempt to go and look for work in the nearest town. When, through a friend, she heard about the Saffron project she registered for it immediately. It represents for her a chance to change her life circumstances. Even if she lives far away from the saffron fields she is determined to make the most of this opportunity, to learn about the planting methods, and to continue with this activity even after the individual project comes to an end.



She married at a young age, not an uncommon happening here. Now she is fifty years old and lives in the town of Herat with her nine children. Her husband had a small shop but he died in unfortunate circumstances whilst transferring stock from one location to another. Yes, he got caught in a raid involving Jehad bands. Baseema found herself alone and in disastrous circumstances. Notwithstanding all, and after the fall of the Taleban, she was able to find work as a cleaner in a school and to send her nine children to school. Some of these children now go to University. The resilience of women knows no limits. Unfortunately, due to passing years she had to stop work some years ago and the family was again in financial difficulty. Signing up to the Saffrom project she sees a new chance, a chance to help her younger children to finish school and to look to the future with some hope. For her and her children the project is a Godsend and the only way they can look to the future with some optimism.



Faatin has five children to look after and a husband at home who is too sick to work. Add to this that she is 52 and it is easy to see that things are not easy for her. Her oldest daughter would be ready to go to University but there is not enough money to even think about sending her. Another two children have nearly finished the school and soon soon they will be in the same boat. The Saffron project is giving Faatin the opportunity she was so badly looking for. With the money she earns her oldest caughter will be able to start university in the spring and now there is a glimmer of hope for her younger children too.



Haifa lives in a village near Herat with her husband and two small children. She is 25 and her husband earns one euro and twenty cents a day transporting goods on a carriage pulled by a mule. So as to help her husband she worked in the fields but earned even less than him. When she heard about the project she quickly registered and now slowly slowly their life is changing for the better.



Kareema has a sick husband and a lot of debt. This is the reality she needs ato live with, and as a 52 year old woman with 7 children the future is drastically uncertain to say the very least. Her husband’s bad back requires constant treatment and she as a 52 years old is not able to find gainful employment. Some of the children do work but this is not enough to maintain the family. Not surprisingly Kareema adhered to the project without a second thought and now there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it is just a little hope which people need to carry them forward.



Her father died after years of illness when she was still young. Her mother is too old to work, and now Iman finds herself at 19 with six brothers and sisters to take care of. None of them is old enough to work. For Irman the project offers an opportunity to solve a few things immediately and to look to the future with hope. On the back of the training she receives Irman hopes to start a small business. Even in Afghanistan the entrepreneurial spirit is important.



Nadia is the oldest of 5 daughters and she herself is only 24. Her Dad is a peasant farmer and her mother a housewife. They live in an extremely poor village. When she was 18 Nada tirned down a wedding proposal and decided tp continue her studies and also to help her younger sisters receive an education. Unfortunatley the economic situation did not allow her to follow her way and to follow her plan and her studies. However she was determined to have a University education and started teaching some childen in the local school and to save the money she earned.Now she is working in the project and her dream is to become a journalist and make a dignified future for herself and to support her family.



Nalja grew up in a village in the province of Herat. At the age of 34 she had a husband and seven children. Fortunately jer husbanc works but all the same it is not enough to maintain the family. Sge had to find a way to contribute and took a cleaning job in the town, She now too is taking part in the project and organising her time accordingly, and looking forward to new horizons for her family.



A large family made up of 10 persons. The mother is a housewife and the father is disable and unemployed. Rafa is only 17 but is newly married but with no children. However she has seven brothers and sisters younger than she herself. She took part in the project from the outset and the contact with other females has been valuable. The Organising Committee encouraged her to continue her education. Even though she joined the project so as to earn money for her family she has listened to the advice of others and now intends to finish High School, fresh in the knowledge that she will be able to get a better job in the future by so doing.



An 18 year old that barely knows how to read and write.. She can not find a place to be educated as the religious authority of the village had convinced her father that it is not the right thing to do. Her father recently fell ill. Safiva has no choice – she needs to find work so as to provide for her family. However in her village there is no work for women. The project has privided a lifeline for she and her family. Safiva can now think to soon take up an education and not listen to the words of the local religious authority, and to plan a future different from that which had been prospected



Her husband works the land but it is not his property and he is now old. They have 7 children and the older ones help their father work the land. The concept of school is foreign to them.. Their life is one of fatigue and of poverty. They live quiet near to the location where the project has developed and now for Taahira, she now 45, there are new horizons to explore for the family.



Yamha has passed most of her 19 years in Iran. Because she was Afghan she could not go to school there and is still unable to read or write. Her father died when she was young and her mother has had to struggle to bring up 7 children. On coming back to Afghanistan Yamja got to know about the project and it has helped her start a new life, a life with new hope, a hope which it had previously been difficult to imagine.


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