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Fifty Women Entrepreneurs Trained, But Then What?

Recently I subjected myself to about 36 hours of travel, including five cities, four flights, three airplane pasta meals and the promise of just over two weeks in-country. I didn’t do it for the frequent flyer miles, nor did my boss give me two hours notice to jump on a plane – take Scott on his word though, it’s happened before. Instead, I came to Kabul to write some donor reports, train the staff on the new Business Portal, and to provide support to the overworked Afghan team on a few items.

Like any good headquarters staff, I also wanted to get out of the office and see the PDM-A project at work. And like any good traveler, I wanted to get out of the office and see more of Kabul – collecting stories to share back home to dispel the myth that Afghanistan is all Hesco barriers and barbed wire.

Attending the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women graduation ceremony provided such an opportunity for me. Fifty women entrepreneurs graduated from a forty hour program that saw them take classes in entrepreneurship, marketing, management, accounting and finance, networking, and strategic planning. The ceremony doubled as a business exposition, where the women displayed their established businesses and business ideas.

As part of the business exposition, I was able to speak with women who had their own construction companies, carpentry businesses, media and production companies, gynecological clinics, and the ubiquitous textile business. I’m really happy that these women were able to go through the program, I know better than anyone how valuable the skills that these women learned are (PDT frequently receives feedback from buyers and suppliers alike saying that local businesses could benefit from such training).

However, as I left the event I felt that the feel-good sensation the graduation brought was a bit tarnished. There were many more women with innovative ideas – poultry farms, raisin production, pharmaceutical services, legal consultation services, and the production of oral rehydration salts (ORS) – who now had gained valuable business skills but still lacked the capital to start up their businesses. I think this must be similar to the feeling every graduating B.A. student with no job prospects has. I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see if their marketing and networking skills can be put to good use, but at the same time I know that there are more factors at play than that. A subject for another day, and another blog, perhaps…

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1 Comment

  1. Joanna Buckley says:

    The key factor when developing a business in Afghanistan is to look at the market linkages for the good or service. This is all to ofen ignored and leads to the production of products that no one will ever will buy.

    Access to small and medium business finance is one of the important linkages that enable great ideas to get off the ground. As the banking sector develops in country and microfinacing models adapt to local demand it is hoped we’ll see more credit facilities businesses can be linked into in order to kick start their ideas.

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