Afghan women have been the victim of gender inequality and social exclusion for a long time. Due to decades of war and current turmoil in the country, most Afghans inherit violence towards women. Afghan girls are married at an early age, and according to UNICEF 54% girls are married aged 15-19 and are frequently subject to domestic violence from men. As a result, the mortality rate is as high as 400 in 100,000. This astonishing number of mortality rate is caused by domestic violence from men.
The Afghan nation couldn’t stand up with modernization, when the USSR invaded Afghanistan which gave birth to Mujahiddin and civil war leading Afghanistan to destruction. In the 1970s, Afghanistan was a modern state with all resources available for women to pursue their dreams, but it all vanished when Afghanistan became a battleground for two super powers. Since the 1980s, Afghanistan has seen nothing but war and currently a big fraction of its soil is under the rule of insurgents. The war brought great damage to the mind set of Afghans. They tend to limit the role, which an Afghan woman can play in the development. They believe a woman’s role should be limited to a mother only. While, the role of an Afghan woman is needed strongly in the Medical field. Many pregnant women die in remote areas, because Afghanistan has a lowest number of female doctors.
While going through the problems Afghan women face at a local level, I found that because of strong dependency on the male’s income, Afghan women have no other choice but to bear violence from men. They feel as though they will not have any other means to support themselves if they get divorced from their brutal husbands.
These miserable conditions, Afghan women confront, ignited a spirit with in me. I started exploring ways in which I could make the lives of these desperate women happy. I realized social enterprises can bring income opportunities to women in need. Social enterprises as a whole will bring a change in Afghanistan breaking stereotypes and giving women an equal part in the development of Afghanistan.
I started my initiatives from the platform of my NGO “Ebtakar Inspiring Entrepreneurs of Afghanistan (EIEAO)”. I have selected three women from different areas of Kabul to take a lead role in their small businesses. The businesses include serving food from the small movable food carts to raising organic chickens in the backyard. Organic Chickens have a good demand in Kabul and due to its time-consuming development many commercial poultry farms don’t raise them. With small investment, poor women can make good profit for themselves by raising chickens in their backyard. For marketing purposes, we will set up a brand name for the startup. The enterprise will collect Chickens from the home-based poultry network and supply the meat to health-conscious consumers. This will give more value to the women entrepreneurs raising organic chicks provided by EIEAO. For our second business, we have enabled women to take a slice of the street food business. The street food business requires low investment with high return. EIEAO has built a small food cart for a beneficiary. We gave her cooking classes and made her ready to serve “Chicken Baryani” in the streets of Kabul.
Our next social business model is to build food carts that run on Solar panels for women entrepreneurs. This social business model will have a great impact for women, since it is hard for women to move the food carts alone. A motor that runs on batteries will be attached to food carts and will be moved easily to different points giving comfort for women food entrepreneurs.
In conclusion, I believe Afghan women have great potential to play an active role in the economic development of Afghanistan. By igniting entrepreneurial spirit, seed funding and business management trainings, we can empower local woman and give them financial independency. The Social enterprises will eventually give a positive mindset to Afghan men and they will welcome women’s inclusion in the economic activities.
For more on Farhad: http://youngleadersfordev.org/author/farhad-wajdi/