Despite challenges, Afghan female entrepreneurs reach global markets

Members of the Afghan all-girls robotics team make adjustments to a team robot in the practice area on July 17, 2017. Afghan women are considered among the most resilient in the world since they work against multiple odds and challenges. (AFP/Getty Images/file)
Updated 25 November 2018
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Despite challenges, Afghan female entrepreneurs reach global markets

  • There are now about 890 small and medium-sized, female-owned enterprises in different sectors across Afghanistan
  • Afghan women are among the most resilient in the world since they work against multiple odds and challenges., says official

KABUL: Naziya Basharmal set up a small tailoring facility at her home in Kandahar province, one of the most conservative parts of Afghanistan, with less than $800 in assets almost two years ago.

Since then, she has made more than $12,000 in profit, equivalent to at least two decades’ worth of income for the average civil servant in Afghanistan.

Encouraged by the income, she expanded her business and now has an army of 50 female tailors.

She sends the fabrics to their homes since many women who can forge world-famous embroidery cannot run their own shops due to cultural restrictions.

“You have to be confident when you take on this type of work. It looks tough at the beginning, but you’ll soon yield results,” Basharmal, who is in her mid-30s, told Arab News at the first National Women Entrepreneurs’ Summit in Kabul. 

The summit named 12 prominent businesswomen to watch in 2018, and gave these entrepreneurs a platform to share their experiences and the challenges they face, in addition to exploring ways to facilitate trade for women in a male-dominated society that has suffered decades of war.

Several hundred women entrepreneurs, some covered head to toe, took part in the two-day summit.

They came from different parts of Afghanistan. Some had traveled miles on long road trips, others by airplane. Some even came with their toddlers.

One prominent businesswoman at the summit was Mohsina Saqeb, a former award winner who runs Jama-e-Saqeb (Jama), a handicraft production company founded a year ago in Kabul.

Jama produces modern handmade embroidery infused with traditional design mostly for women’s clothing lines. The company also makes bags and purses.

Like others who attended the summit, several businesses are now after her designs, which have garnered appeal among different generations regionally and as far as the US, according to officials at the Afghan Commerce Ministry.

“My profits have jumped 50 percent since opening Jama and introducing this collection. Essentially, we’re empowering women to contribute to economic growth,” said Saqeb.

“Female entrepreneurship is a new phenomenon in Afghanistan. These new opportunities have instilled many with a renewed sense of hope. You just have to take the initiative.” 

Her designs will be on display at Dubai’s Global Village, a first for a female Afghan entrepreneur.

Zahra Nazari, a young and budding businesswoman from the central Bamiyan province who has run her own firm for more than 10 years, regularly exports her products to India, Turkey and Pakistan.

“Women entrepreneurs have managed to break the gender barrier here, and many now export to various parts of the world,” said Nazari. “There’s a good market for our services.”

Numerous products made or handled by women, including saffron, packaged dried fruit, carpeting, marble, handicrafts and jewelry, have garnered global interest.

According to local ministry estimates, there are about 890 small and medium-sized, female-owned enterprises in different sectors across Afghanistan.

The firms have reportedly created employment opportunities for almost 48,000 entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, most of them women.

The growing number of women getting involved in business prompted the ministry to set up a separate chamber of commerce for women last year, said ministry spokesman Musafir Kokandi.

“We aim to enable them to go from growth to growth,” said Kamila Sediqi, deputy minister of commerce and industry, adding that Afghan women are among the most resilient in the world since they work against multiple odds and challenges.

Women at the summit, nevertheless, voiced concern over numerous challenges, including high taxes, a lack of security and state-level corruption.

 

 

 

 


Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

Updated 2 min 45 sec ago
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Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

  • The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians
  • EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news"

BUDAPEST: Hungary launched a new anti-immigration media campaign on Tuesday in which it accused George Soros and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker of allegedly supporting illegal migration, but which Brussels immediately dismissed as "fake news".
According to the Hungarian government's Facebook page, the media blitz — funded with taxpayers' money — is expected to include billboard posters featuring images of the liberal US billionaire Soros and a smiling Juncker above the words: "You too have a right to know what Brussels is preparing".
"They want to bring in the mandatory settlement quota; weaken member states' rights to border defence; facilitate immigration with a migrant visa," it continues.
The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians, including from Joseph Daul, president of the European People's Party grouping which includes both Juncker and right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party.
In a series of tweets, Daul condemned the campaign, calling its claims "deceitful, misleading and... not based on facts".
Daul denounced Hungary's attacks on Juncker and defended him as a "true Christian Democrat and a real European leader".
He went on to remind Hungary that "decisions in Brussels, including on migration, are taken collectively by EU governments" and the European Parliament, both of which include Hungarian representatives.
The presence of Fidesz within the EPP has long been a source of controversy but there have been no official moves by any of the other centre-right parties in the grouping to expel it.
Orban's government, which has frequently clashed with the EU on migration, has regularly undertaken similar campaigns in the past, including "Let's Stop Brussels" and "Don't let Soros have the last laugh."
In recent years, Orban has blasted the Hungarian-born 88-year-old philanthropist and investor as a "public enemy" for allegedly backing uncontrolled mass immigration.
At the same time, Orban's government has frequently been accused of using anti-Semitic tropes and imagery in its campaigns against Soros, claims it denies.
In recent months, pro-Orban media have also attacked Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini — the author of a critical report about Hungary that formed the basis of EU legal action against Budapest -- and Juncker's deputy Frans Timmermans.
"Brussels continues to want to support illegal immigration," Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman, told reporters in Budapest on Tuesday.
"Hungarians need to know about this, that's why the latest information campaign has been launched," he said, denying it is part of the upcoming European Parliament election campaign.
Kovacs said plans in "drawers in Brussels" included hikes in financial funding of NGOs and the creation of a special migration fund.
EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news".
"The Hungary government campaign beggars belief," he told a briefing in Brussels.
"It is shocking that such a ludicrous conspiracy theory has reached the mainstream to the extent it has. There is no conspiracy. Hungarians deserve facts, not fiction," he said.