Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Kabul's Women Set Up in Business to Sidestep Husbands' Disapproval

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Kabul's Women Set Up in Business to Sidestep Husbands' Disapproval

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert Fox in Kabul

LIFE for Nasqi, bringing up a family of eight daughters in one of the poorest districts of Kabul, is tough -- even though Afghanistan is about to celebrate the 10th anniversary of liberation from the Taliban.

But she and some of her friends have found an ingenious way to earn a living -- about [pounds sterling]75 per month -- despite the disapproval of her husband, a lorry driver. She is part of a group, backed by the Zardarzi NGO for Markets for Afghan Artisans, of commission agents collecting garments from homeworkers and selling them to stallholders in the bazaars.

"Sewing and embroidering these garments is one of the few areas in which women can work independently," says Kerry Jane Wilson, 58, the group's organiser since 2007. "The carpet business and most tailoring activity are entirely male-dominated and all the money goes to the husband."

The organisation offers training in business, marketing and accounting -- a tall order since most of the women are illiterate. But then so are some of Afghanistan's most famous international entrepreneurs, says Laiq Samira, the project's co-ordinator.

The women spend their money shrewdly, he adds. One went to pay for family planning advice at the hospital in Jalalabad, in defiance of her husband. "We offer quality unlike the cheap products made in China, which fall apart when you've worn them once," says Nesama, 19, who is in partnership with her cousin Wasji, 20. "We live in the same big apartment block and we each collect from about 10 women who work entirely in their homes and we sold at first to two or three stallholders who we really trust."

The young women were inspired by attending a short course in microfinance.

With about [pounds sterling]2.3 million being put in by Britain's Department for International Development, they intend to expand. …

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