International Women’s Day: In pictures – a female vaccinator in Afghanistan
This International Women’s Day Vaccines Work is hosting a series of interviews with inspirational women from across the world. Here we follow Razia, a female vaccinator in Afghanistan, as she does her daily rounds.
8 March 2021 – by Tetsekela Anyiam-Osigwe and Oriane Zerah
In Pol Regina in Afghanistan’s Herat province, Razia is one of a small number of female vaccinators saving the lives of young children through vaccines.
It’s about empowerment
Razia’s motivation is simple: she can empower herself economically and provide for her family.
“My economic situation has gotten better. Before, me and my husband were jobless, but now it is better... I am not at home, I go for a job, and I can help my society, and I can help my sisters.”
Overcoming so many barriers
Societal pressures and expectations continue to be major barriers facing women who want to be vaccinators in Afghanistan. In fact, Razia is the only woman in both her and her husband’s family to complete secondary school as well as a university education and embark on further work after school.
So, how did Razia do it?
It is a persuasion game, according to Razia. She had to have several discussions with her family, explaining how much she valued her independence and wanted to fulfil her professional aspirations in order to secure a better life for herself and her entire family.
Razia was also lucky to have an extremely supportive husband. Normally, once a woman gets married these barriers to work increase, but this was not Razia’s case. Having studied English Literature, it was not until she got married that she entered the medical field, completing a degree in nursing with the help and support of her husband of seven years, 28-year-old Abdul Saboor. During the time Razia was going to university, Abdul took on the role of caretaker for their daughter.
“...well, my husband, when I married, I have studied two years English literature, when I married after marriage, I have studied two years nursing, and this was my husband’s help, even he was taking care of my daughter when I was going to university. My husband helped me lot.”
Vaccinating is now a family affair.
Today, 25-year-old Razia takes both her husband and her daughter with her during vaccination drives around Herat.
Together, her and Abdul work as a vaccinating pair in a clinic close to their home. The project was created to improve access to and coverage of immunisation services for children in Herat.
Despite the significant barriers that exist for Afghan women looking to work in primary healthcare, Razia remains optimistic about the prospect of more female vaccinators.
More women are doing vaccination, before it was men who were vaccinating.
She also does her part to encourage more women to become health workers.
“I encourage women,” Razia says when speaking of her time on the field. She is even doing her best to start this encouragement at home with her younger sister and her daughter.