Habiba Amini knows a good opportunity when she sees one. Amini’s workshop, more of a small factory really, was opened by Mawlawi Qudratullah Tareq, mayor of Mazar-i-Sharif couple of weeks ago.
“So far, I’ve created new jobs for 40 seamstresses,” she told Xinhua recently. Amini likes to see women given the freedom to work outside home, and is more than thankful to the mayor for supporting her and other women who want or need to work. If they do not work, their families could go hungry.
“We have allocated one market for women here in Mazar-i-Sharif city to have their business and economic activities. Just recently I inaugurated a tailoring shop and provided job opportunities for 40 women to work there,” Tareq told Xinhua.
The Rabia Balkhi Bazaar is the only market in Mazar-i-Sharif city where women run their own businesses, most shops and eateries.
“Mayor Tariq is very supportive. He understands the role of women within his capacity, and is ready to solve their problems if he can,” Amini spoke happily.
More than 22 million people face outright hunger in today’s Afghanistan, according to aid agencies reports. Finding a job is next to impossible, with uncountable applications for any advertised post. Thousands more have been forced to go abroad, some as migrants, and many as refugees from the 20-year conflict.
For many women and girls — students, teachers and housewives — employment means food.
Since the Taliban gained power last August, questions have been asked about the status of working women. Business is gradually reviving and the administration has assured openness to companies and individuals invested in the country.
“The Islamic Emirate is not against women and does not deprive them of their right to work,” said Tareq adding that opening the tailoring shop for women is a proof of the fact that we are supporting women and their rights.
Zahra Sediqi, a 40-year-old female worker at Amini’s workshop, has six young mouths to feed at home. “I am very happy to be working here,” she said, “I can feed my children, and I have always enjoyed embroidery and making handicrafts.”
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HANDICRAFTS EXHIBITION HELPS RAISE HOPE FOR FUTURE
Putting on display numerous hand-made purses, bags, shoes and embroidered women’s clothing, Ferishta Hashimi, 40, wants to find more customers and boost her business.
“Organising handicrafts exhibition and showcasing our products would be a great help,” she said.
“Our products mostly are made of leather,” Hashimi said. Her business has declined over the past months, and sometimes she just stayed at home, idling.
This is the first exhibition displaying women-made handicrafts held in Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul after the Taliban takeover of the Central Asian country last August.
Like many economic activities in Afghanistan, Hashimi’s business has felt the impact of the US sanctions against Afghanistan by Washington freezing the assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. Now the handicrafts show raises hope that she could find new overseas markets.
“It is hopeful that I can sell my products to foreign countries in the future,” said Hashimi.
With the support from the Ministry of Information and Culture of the Taliban government, the exhibition recently opened at the National Gallery. Of the 81 stalls set up in total, 40 are owned by women. “I appreciate holding such exhibitions to support women and their economic activities,” said another woman at the show who preferred to be anonymous.
“Women are part of the Afghan society, and they deserve support and should be encouraged to get education, to work and to contribute in rebuilding our war-torn country and stabilising its fragile economy,” she told Xinhua.
Although in today’s Afghanistan, women are still active in such sectors as health, business and education, girl students from seventh to 12th grades cannot attend school.
Chief spokesperson for the Taliban administration, Zabihullah Mujahid, has visited the exhibition and praised the women stall owners.
“Our sisters deserve appreciation and support, they should be encouraged and I am calling on our countrymen to buy the handicrafts and products made by our sisters,” he said.
Ali Kohistani, a bookseller said he is very happy to see the handicrafts show held and will welcome more events of this kind. “Organising such exhibitions raise hopes among people for the future and drive you to work,” he said