Last winter, we told you about Razia, a widow in Afghanistan who was struggling to protect her daughters from the bitterly cold weather. At just 23, she is the sole breadwinner for four young children and she was facing unimaginable hardship as the temperatures plummeted to below-freezing. Our team in Afghanistan describe winter as 'hell' - a season of utter desperation for families who are already struggling and vulnerable.
Alhamdulillah, after hearing her story, you donated blankets, warm clothes and vital food parcels to support hundreds of families just like Razia's. Our teams distributed this Zakat and Sadaqah to communities in Kabul and Parwan. You gave them the strength and resources they needed to get through the cold season - just as you do every winter.
But Razia's story didn't end there.
Our mission at Muslim Hands is to both provide emergency relief and tackle the root causes of poverty. We distribute food parcels in Palestine - but we also plant olive trees to provide a sustainable source of food. We sponsor orphans to help them with day-to-day expenses - but we also build schools to help them fulfil their potential. And we distribute warm clothes in winter - but we also train disadvantaged women as seamstresses, empowering them to provide for themselves.
Thus, with your support, we were able to give Razia a hand-up rather than a hand-out, transforming her life!
This is Razia's story of hope.
Struggling to survive
Razia has been solely responsible for her daughters - aged nine, eight, five and four - since 2016, when her husband went to look for work in Iran. She hasn't heard from him since then and she has no idea if she is a widow and her children are orphans.
Despite being a young and energetic woman, living hand-to-mouth was wearing her down. She told our team a heart-breaking story about the winter of 2017, when she was working herself to the bone to feed her children. She doesn't have electricity, so her neighbour had given her candles to use. When she got home that evening, she was so tired that she accidentally started a fire, which grew out of control and burned all their belonging. Razia was completely devastated.
It is just one of the painful events she has experienced in the last four years. Razia has been relying on the meagre wages she earns from washing her neighbours' clothes - and she can never make ends meet. Her one-room house is dilapidated and her children are always getting sick. She has no washing facilities - she and her daughters wash outside at night, when the neighbours are sleeping. At aged 23, Razia's whole life is consumed by struggling to provide for her daughters.
A life-transforming livelihood
The Prophet (saw) said, 'Nobody has ever eaten a better meal than (a meal) which he earned from the work of his own hands. The Prophet of Allah, Dawud (as), used to eat from the work of his own hands'. [Bukhari]
Alhamdulillah, thanks to a generous donor, Razia is now able to eat the best meal - food earned through her own hands. She is no longer forced to rely on her neighbours' charity - she is a seamstress!
In February 2021, our team finished providing sewing machine training for 50 impoverished women in Kabul, many of them widows like Razia. For one month, these women were trained in sewing, design and tailoring, including advice on how to set up their own businesses. Each woman was then given a sewing machine and 30-40 metres of fabric to help them get started!
Razia now works from home sewing clothes for individual customers and for businesses. Her life has been completely transformed, alhamdulillah! When our team met her, she mentioned that, not only is she earning enough money for food, she can even afford school uniforms and stationary for her daughters. She was happy and hopeful and she made several du'as for our team and for the donors.
Our team were moved to find that the crying, depressed mother who they interviewed last winter had been transformed into a confident, skillful woman with her very own business and it was all thanks to your generosity. It wasn't just Razia. The whole family were much happier and the atmosphere of the house had changed completely.
'My greatest fear has always been hunger due to lack of opportunity to work. But now I have a way to work and be self-sufficient. I can improve and promote my sewing and I can provide for my children', Razia said.
She was smiling as she talked of distributing samples of her work in the local market and she mentioned setting up agreements with local cloth sellers to provide them with regular tailoring.
The Prophet (saw) said, 'The one who looks after and works for a widow and for a poor person is like a warrior fighting in Allah’s way, or like a person who fasts during the day and prays all the night'. [Bukhari]
Your support not only provided Razia with sewing machine training, it also allowed her to attend a literacy class run by our team, improving her skillset even more! In addition, we provided her with 15 chickens so she can make extra income from selling eggs, as well as add them to her daughters' diet. You have truly 'looked after and worked for' this widow to change her situation completely and her story is proof of how even the smallest interventions can have a life-changing impact.
Around the world, there are many women like Razia who are determined to break the cycle of poverty but lack the opportunity to do so. Here's how you can help:
- You can set up sewing machine training for a group of woman, teaching them design, tailoring and how to set up a business.
- You can provide a sewing machine to someone for £150.
We also have plenty of other livelihoods gifts to choose from, such as olive trees and chickens. You can also check out our Major Giving livelihood projects if you want to set up a bigger programme to provide sustainable livelihoods.
We pray Allah (swt) rewards you generously for giving these women hope and increases your provision, amin!