We Don’t Only Sell Handicrafts Afghan Women Tell Buyers
The media stereo type of Afghan business women is a common one. A women to be felt sorry for who is heartwarmingly trying to “stitch” her life together again through handicrafts that a kind NGO will help sell to expats. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these programmes are inherently bad. I’m just saying handicrafts do not represent a business model that has strong market linkages and as any good business women will know, demand, market linkages and access to the buyers are what really make you successful.
Luckily I’m not the only one whose realized the above, the whole PDT team has, which is why we put on an Afghan Women First matchmaking event to show the real, not imaged, sectors successful women are working in and allow these women a chance to market themselves to international buyers.
ATVI kindly offered the school grounds for the event and over 170 of our registered women owned businesses RSVPED keen to access valuable face time with potential clients.
The event gave the women access to teams from UNDP, UNOPS, UNHABITAT, UNFPA, the Camp Eggers US Military contracting team and PAE. I managed to push through the crowd to ask one of the contracting team from Camp Eggers how he was finding the event. “We have a lot of interest in our future projects” he told me. Was it useful? “Absolutely!” .
As well as some key buyers PDT-A also invited some key players of interest to the women owned businesses. These included the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women programme, a selection of banks giving SME loans, ISAF personnel, the Afghan builders association, USAID’s small and medium enterprise development programme and jobs.af, an online human resources firm.
Unlike a lot of events there was no crowded agenda that needed to be followed. The focus was on giving Afghan women the chance to talk freely with buyers and buyers the chance to see that the top sectors represented were logistics, construction and textiles- not cushion covers, teddy bears and homemade jewelry. As Mike Capstick, PDT-A Country Director emphasized “It’s the stuff internationals really need”.
Attendees said that this was a unique event that really gave them the chance to meet with the international community and show them their capacity. One attendee emphasized “for me this is a dream. If you were here under the Taliban you would never have begun to have imagined something like this could happen”.