Happy Women’s Day from Afghanistan
Today marks the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day — which, incidentally, used to be called International Working Women’s Day — with this year’s theme being: “Equal access to education, training, and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.” The IWD centenary is getting a lot of press, with leaders such as UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighing in on the importance of involving women in international development. They stress that empowering women, especially in developing and fragile nations, makes the world safer and more prosperous. In Afghanistan, the necessity of female empowerment and entrepreneurship carries extra emphasis, as the urgent need for job creation and gender equity to create economic and societal stability permeates everyday life. As the international community curtails ambitious development and gender promotion plans in Afghanistan, the Afghan private sector — and especially female entrepreneurs — become ever more crucial to lasting and sustainable peace.
In observance of the holiday and the sentiment of opportunity it carries for women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, the PDT team hosted the Afghan Women First Business Matchmaking Event last week, with support from some extraordinary and recognition-deserving organizations. Our organizations have sought to forge stronger ties over the past few months, in the understanding that better collaboration leads to better opportunities for Afghan businesswomen. The following organizations run innovative and successful entrepreneurship programs that train Afghan businesswomen and connect their goods and services with sustainable and viable markets.
The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative — run in Afghanistan through the prestigious American University of Afghanistan — provides in-depth business training to women who have proven that they have the will, the ability, and the dedication to succeed. The forty-hour 10,000 Women entrepreneur training course uses world-class curriculum from Thunderbird School of Management. Thunderbird also runs Project Artemis, which provides even higher-level, U.S.-based business training to women entrepreneurs from Afghanistan.
Bpeace operates under the mantra that “more jobs mean less violence” and focuses efforts on connecting promising entrepreneurs with the resources necessary to grow their businesses and create jobs. Bpeace-supported entrepreneurs are connected with successful international mentors who can advise on all aspects of business development. Bpeace recently launched a One Million Jobs Campaign, asking individuals to create one job by donating to the cause.
A terrific example of the impact that these entrepreneurship programs have on Afghan women is Fatima, a beneficiary of the successive training courses offered by Bpeace, 10,000 Women, and Project Artemis:
Zardozi is similarly effective in connecting talented artisans’ products to markets, and has a long history of supporting Afghans affected by conflict. Zardozi’s projects employ thousands of women and enable them to not only support themselves and their families, but to also allow them to send their children to school.
There is optimism and drive within the Afghan private sector, even as the security situation seems to deteriorate. The international donor community may not be able to stay forever, but the private sector will continue to persevere. Organizations like 10,000 Women, Project Artemis, Bpeace, and Zardozi are paving the way for a new generation of successful Afghan businesswomen to support their families, create jobs within their communities, and ultimately help stabilize their country.