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Empowering women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

Conflict, mass unemployment, natural disasters and shortages of basic amenities such as food and water have created a situation where 24 million people in Afghanistan – more than half of the population – are in need of humanitarian aid.

The knock-on effect on the economy has been severe, with unemployment in Afghanistan in 2020 standing at around 12%. Although there are no official numbers for the suspected rising unemployment rate, reports indicate that circumstances are so dire for many, that they are resorting to selling their possessions to survive.

Islamic Relief has been working in collaboration with the ABADEI programme, launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is a crisis response initiative aiming to prevent humanitarian catastrophe and the breakdown of the country’s economy, by supporting the most vulnerable.

A major facet of this programme is supporting women-led small businesses which in turns supports the local economy in the western provinces of Afghanistan.

A successful intervention

The ABADEI programme, in association with Islamic Relief, identifies women entrepreneurs with skills they can use to develop an income. The programme then gives these budding entrepreneurs a cash grant, detailed training and comprehensive business support so that they can increase their level of household income and meet their basic needs.

The programme has benefitted women like Humaira, who launched her own poultry business 2 years ago. After the business initially struggled, through working with Islamic Relief and attending our business development training, Humaira has now been able to invest in more sustainable practices:

“Now after passing the business development training, I am so happy because I can develop a plan to expand my business and purchase all necessary machinery as well.”

A 5-day training initiative was held in the Samangan province with approximately 100 women entrepreneurs in attendance, representing diverse skills such as agricultural production, tailoring, dairy and carpet weaving. At the end of training, short-term cash grants were awarded to the women towards setting up or sustaining small businesses.

Another entrepreneur benefitting from the programme is Roshan. Roshan set up her own tailoring business after her husband passed away 10 years ago and she was left to care for 3 children.

Roshan started off producing covers for cradles before moving onto producing different types of dresswear, such as Afghani gands and cherma dozis for weddings. After attending the training, Roshan will be using grants to expand her business and begin exporting her products to international markets.

According to the latest figures from the World Bank, Afghan women make up almost half of the population. Islamic Relief see the progress and development of the Afghan economy, and society, depends on women being able to able to flourish and participate in business.

Islamic Relief’s ongoing support in Afghanistan

Following the announcement of the ban in late-December, Islamic Relief took the difficult decision to pause many of our activities. Our work depends on female staff and it is not possible to carry out all of our activities and reach the most vulnerable people without them.

Since then, the Ministry of Health has assured non-governmental organisations that women will be allowed to keep working on health projects. As a result, we have been able to resume health activities such as operating static clinics and mobile clinics that provide nursing and midwifery services in the most remote areas.

Given the extremely cold winter and heavy snowfall, we are also distributing aid such as food, blankets and warm clothes to vulnerable families who cannot afford to eat or heat their homes. We have also received indication that women can continue to work in some of our community-based education projects for young girls.

Other important Islamic Relief projects remain paused while the overall ban remains in place, such as supporting long-term livelihoods for women and men, helping farmers and small businesses, and improving water, sanitation and hygiene services. Such aid is critical for addressing the crisis in Afghanistan and we urge the authorities to urgently lift the ban.

We are continuing to provide support for the people of Afghanistan where we can, however. You can help us provide vital live-saving aid by donating today.

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