I feel proud when I look back and compare myself with past me. I have learned everything and become an expert in business, marketing, and exhibitions.
About four years ago, I graduated from the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program, and this changed everything in my life. During one of our tailoring classes, WfWI announced that they would rent a shop for one participant, and I couldn’t believe when I heard that I was the one who was selected. WfWI rented the shop for me and paid the rent for two years. They also supported me by providing me with other participants’ products to sell. By that time, I was the sole breadwinner for my family. I married twenty years ago but am a widow now. I have three daughters and three sons.
My work was very successful during the republic regime. I sold clothes made from velvet and georgette and jewelry too. When the defacto government took power, they banned women from going to gardens and so they shut down my shop which is located in a historical garden. I was shocked. How would I pay my bills and buy food for my family? There was simply no money and no work, and I saw myself with nothing.
I couldn’t accept this decision like this. So, together with other women, we dared to conduct several meetings with the authorities and shared our concerns with them. It was not only me that lost a source of income. At that time, I was employing 12 to 20 other women. If I became jobless, all of them would also become jobless. We were all widows and the breadwinners of our families. I needed to be brave enough to tell them that we didn’t have any male support and that our kids were young. My eldest was only 12 years old at that time, so I asked them:
“Would you rather I beg on the streets or earn an income along with the other women whom I work with?”
After that meeting, they called one week later to tell us that we could keep working, and I reopened my shop. I could finally breathe calmly. We reopened the shop and now we sell Afghan and Hazaragi clothes, and different types of gemstones like lapis lazuli, chrysocolla and Shah Maqsoodi Stone.
As the business is going well, we are also buying some other jewelry from the market. Over the last three years, I have also participated independently in exhibitions to sell my products and earn money. I pay the cost to participate by myself, as I don’t have the approval of the Chamber of Commerce or a reference.
As a mother, I don’t expect my children to work and earn money for me. I want to be independent and be able to provide for them. My only hope is that they get their education, so they can have a future where they will also be able to provide for their families. I am encouraging my sons and daughters to learn the Quran, English, and Mathematics. I enrolled my daughters to take English language courses two years ago, but the authorities closed the courses, so they are now at home and help me with some sewing and tailoring work. I have cried very much for them now that they are at home. This was not the future I wanted for them, and sometimes I feel hopeless. I can see that they feel anxiety and depressed, because they also have fear about their future, but I have enrolled them in a tailoring course with WfWI just to make them feel better.
I hope that we, as Afghan women, keep enduring and showing up for each other. We have the power to change things and I will do whatever I can to keep my shop running so that my children and also other women who work with me see a future for themselves.
*For security reasons, we're not using her real name.