The Gift of Grace: How cash support enables a single mother to...

The Gift of Grace: How cash support enables a single mother to nurture her family

In the heart of Central Bamyan, lived a young woman named Zahra who for almost all her short life yet had borne hardships and suffering. At just 27 years old, she had experienced more challenges than many would face in a lifetime.

Four years ago, Zahra’s husband was killed in a bomb explosion on Kabul Ghazni Road1, leaving her with three young children, aged between 9 and 4 years, to care and provide for. With no means of external support or relatives to rely on, Zahra embarked on this journey of survival as a single mother in a now perilous Afghanistan.

Soon after Zahra and her husband were married, they moved to Ghazni in search of a better life, far from familiar faces and old problems. Her husband worked as a construction labourer, while Zahra looked after the children, their house and all daily chores. This was their life and they were happy with it. However, fate dealt them a cruel hand, and the sudden loss of her husband forced her to return with her children to her hometown of Bamyan. Life here was very different and she struggled to make ends meet.

Not having a house of their own, Zahra constantly battled to scrape together the AFN 1500 (Approx. USD 17) that she had to pay in rent each month. Despite her best efforts, affording her daughters’ education, stationary, and clothes became a daunting task. To earn a livelihood Zahra washed clothes and carpets for neighbours in the village, but the income that came from that was very little to cover the family’s basic needs.

Years of constant struggle and lack of health resources took a toll on Zahra’s health, resulting in a debilitating intestinal infection. Without the money to access health care and medication, Zahra quietly suffered in pain for a long time. However, the harsh winter (of 2022) without heating only worsened her health condition. Zahra longed to work and support her children, but her ailing health and responsibilities as a mother made it impossible.

With a heavy heart, Zahra was forced to discontinue the education of her two elder daughters and eventually resorted to begging on the streets as the only means of survival. The daily suffering and the demeaning behaviour they encountered due to the begging was extremely hard for the family to endure but they had no other recourse. The occasional kindness of wealthy neighbours provided temporary relief, but the endless financial struggles remained. Turning to her family for support proved fruitless as her brother claimed he would only offer assistance if she abandoned her children as he couldn’t afford to care for all; an unthinkable choice for any mother.

Amid this struggle and despair, a glimmer of hope emerged. Community World Service Asia, with support from Japan Platform and CWS Japan, reached out to Zahra’s family and supported them with a cash assistance under its emergency relief project. A sum of USD 333, distributed over three months, was granted to Zahra which brought immense relief to the family at the time. For Zahra and her children, this support meant they no longer had to beg on the streets or endure weeks without proper meals. The warmth and joy they felt after each meal was immeasurable.

“This assistance has enabled me to buy a variety of essential groceries, such as oil, flour, pasta, lentils, beans, rice, seasonal vegetables, fresh fruits, and other nutritious food items. With these supplies, I have been able to prepare delicious and wholesome meals for my children, relieving the burden of hunger and ensuring their well-being. My daughters have been able to return to school and resume their studies, no longer forced to resort to begging on the streets for sustenance. Witnessing their renewed access to education fills my heart with hope. This financial support has allowed me to buy my prescribed medicines, giving me better care and an improved well-being. The respite this support has provided us has been a lifeline during very challenging times.”

  1. The main highway connecting Kabul city to the Ghazni province