The Future Looks Bleak for Women Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

With the rise of the Taliban, women investors have quit their jobs or outsourced their work to a man. Women entrepreneurs say they invested hundreds of thousands of Afghanis in the previous government. According to these investors, they are now forced to shut down their businesses due to the lack of Taliban support.

Contrary to their claims, the Taliban didn’t allow women to work in public and private offices, according to Afghan businesswomen. Women entrepreneurs say that is why they no longer dare to do business. The Taliban, on the other hand, say they are working on a framework under which women can work.

Women in the previous government had significant achievements in various fields, including small and large businesses. According to the Afghan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Investment (AWCCI), more than 2,000 businesswomen have been invested in the country for the past two decades. According to the AWCCI, they have contributed to the country’s economy to a great extent. These businesswomen have now stopped working or have been forced to seek help from men in their businesses. These women believe that the Taliban are unkind to women and have not allowed them to work.

Kia rang Saadat is an entrepreneur in Kabul. Four years ago, she launched Golnigar Handicrafts, providing jobs for more than 70 women. Ms. Saadat told 8 am that her business was booming before the fall of Kabul, earning between 30,000 and 90,000 Afghanis per month. Now, however, the figure is close to zero, she said, and her employees are also unemployed. During these four years, Ms. Saadat has flourished handicrafts and produced Hazaragi cultural and traditional clothing. According to her, most of the clothes were formal dress.

She was also exporting these handicrafts to Australia and New Zealand. At present moment, her business has been disrupted due to the suspension of international flights. She adds that she is unable to pay the shop rent due to lack of sales.

However, Kia rang Saadat points out that Golnigar’s handicrafts are still available. Since women cannot do business and the situation is in a state of confusion, a gentleman is running her business. Ms. Saadat expressed concerns that the situation would continue, stressing that if the restrictions continued like this, it was likely that the Taliban would stop women investors forever. According to her, if women investors who have invested hundreds and even millions of Afghanis are not allowed to work, they will face economic difficulties.

In such circumstances, she believes, no one is willing to buy the products and industries founded by a woman. In the meantime, according to Kia rang Saadat, some women investors have created employment opportunities for hundreds of women, providing them with a livelihood. Now, according to her, with the cessation of women investors, these women will face starvation.

Many women are the only working member or breadwinner in their homes and cannot provide for their livelihood if they don’t work.

“Right now, a lot of women are calling me to provide work for them, but I can’t afford it,” said Ms. Saadat. “If this kind of situation continues and women are not allowed to work, their families will face hunger.”

Meanwhile, another female entrepreneur, who also has invested more than 300,000 Afghanis in the handicrafts sector, told 8 am that her income had dropped to zero with the fall of Kabul. She also says her business has gone bankrupt.

She, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that people were also facing financial problems and that this also had affected her business. Having worked in the handicrafts sector for the past four years, she has now given up on her business. According to her, more women have suspended their business due to the lack of trade and the Taliban’s treatment of women. She warns that if the situation continues like this, businesswomen will become housewives, and the economy of the families that depended on these industries will also suffer.

The Taliban, however, have not yet taken a clear stand against women entrepreneurs. Bilal Karimi, a Taliban spokesman, told 8 am that women would work within a framework. According to him, the Taliban are working on a plan that will clarify women’s activities. According to Karimi, all political and social issues for women are covered by the Taliban government.

Although some government offices have opened and the Taliban have asked male employees to return to work, female employees have not been allowed to do so. The Taliban have announced that female employees will not be present at the office until further notice. Women also criticize their absence from the Taliban cabinet. The Taliban announced their all-male government on September 7. In addition, the Taliban have replaced the Ministry of Women’s Affairs with the Ministry of Guidance, Invitation, Enjoining the Good and Forbidding the Evil.