Afghan Women Power – Here to Stay!
A dark, cold, wet and snowy morning in a troubled city full of security threats and warnings is hardly a conducive environment for enthusiastic and ambitious business networking. But, congratulations to the enterprising female entrepreneurs of Kabul city.
Poor weather and annoying road check points did nothing to dampen these ladies spirit as they came out in droves to attend the Afghan Women First Business Networking Event at Kabul’s Serena Hotel.
Over 70 representatives from women-owned Afghan businesses attended – some registering as early as 7:30 am! Positioned as a forerunner to International Women’s Day on March 8th, the business matchmaking event was designed to introduce international and local governmental procurement entities to established Afghan women –owned businesses, with the aim of releasing business tenders that can lead to potential contract awards.
Coming from hugely diverse industries such as logistics, construction, media, textiles, and furniture supply, Kabul produced some of the most ambitious business women one can imagine. Smartly turned out, and armed with company literature, facts and figures, these ladies were ready to negotiate.
Played out in the unusual model of “Musical Chairs” the buyers were directed to rotate from table to table every 15 minutes, thus ensuring that all guests were able to meet and present their respective companies and procurement needs. A lively, fun-filled environment prevailed, with procurement officers popping up and down regularly, and smiles and hand-shakes all the way around.
Buyers included representatives from the US military, UN agencies, and several key Afghan Government Ministries, several of whom have mandates to help support women-owned businesses in Afghanistan.
“This is the best networking event I’ve been to”, said one entrepreneur who ownes and manages a logistical supply company.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet the important buyers, we otherwise don’t have access to,” said another female business owner who specializes in media and marketing consulting.
“I poo poo those who allowed men to come represent their companies here today – I say it’s all about women power,” said another firebrand entrepreneur.
Women power, indeed – Afghan women power, no less. As this event demonstrated, Afghan women are as business savvy and as ready to cut a deal, as anybody else – even more so, given the hardships and cultural and financial barriers they must face on a day to day basis.
So, here is to the female entrepreneurs of Kabul and Afghanistan! As the world celebrates International Women’s Day this week, pat yourselves on the back for jobs and business ventures well done. Against mighty odds, Afghan women have taken up the reins of entrepreneurialism and are showing the country and the world just what Afghan women power means. And it’s here to stay!
** Special thanks to Peace Dividend Trust’s partners for the Afghan Women First Event: The Canadian Government, The Ministry of Womens Affairs, the Afghan Women Business Federation (AWBF), Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative, UNAMA, BPeace, and Zardozi