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Building Markets launches 2013 Afghan Women’s Economic Participation Report

The post was written by Building Markets employee Sharif Samsor.

In 2013, Building Markets conducted a nationwide survey to highlight the economic participation of Afghan women. As a result of this survey, Building Markets has created a report to identify the challenges and the successes experienced by women in Afghanistan.

On 10 December 2013, the report was launched at an event at the International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development at the American University of Afghanistan.  Ainsley Butler, a director for Building Markets hosted a panel of distinguished guests. These guests included: H.E. James B. Cunningham – U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, along with Mrs. Fauzia Habibi, Deputy Minister of the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Mrs. Najila Habibyar, CEO of the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan. The event was attended by over 100 participants representing a mix of businesswomen and men, NGOs, civil society, and members of the diplomatic community.

The report is available for download in English, Dari, and Pashto at buildingmarkets.org

On 10 December 2013, the report was launched at an event at the International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Developmnet at American University of Afghanistan.  Ainsley Butler, a director for Building Markets hosted the panel of distinguished guests:  H.E. the U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham, along with Mrs. Fauzia Habibi, Deputy Minister of the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Mrs. Najila Habibyar, the CEO of the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan and 120 businesswomen, attended.  Bashir Amiri, Project Manager at Building Markets presented the report’s main findings.

Over 1,400 Afghan female business owners and managers – who together employ over 5,500 employees – participated in the nationwide survey. This survey was conducted in all 34 provinces of the country. The U.S. Embassy provided a grant to fund the report, which marks one of the first comprehensive surveys of Afghan women’s economic participation and their challenges and successes.

Arrival at the International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development: Fereha Hafiz, James Cunningham, Kavya Raman, Nilofar Sahki, Dr. Sharif Fayez, and Bashir Amiri

The event began with a recitation of the holy Quran followed by VIP speeches; Ambassador Cunningham was one of the guest speakers and highlighted the progress that Afghan women have played their role in the economic development of Afghanistan.  “Twelve years ago,” he stated, “women were not allowed to own businesses. Today, Afghan women own major businesses in diverse sectors including construction, logistics, food processing, and architectural design, apparel, and software development. Empowering the private sector is critical to the future of Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s future will depend on whether women are able to live up to their full potential in every sector of Afghan society.”

The Afghan Women’s Economic Participation Report serves as a baseline for beginning to fill this knowledge gap by directly recording the views and experiences of businesswomen and female employees in Afghanistan.

The report is based on the data collected from three surveys undertaken with 298 women business owners, 524 women employees, and 602 key informants from a cross-section of institutions and businesses throughout the whole of Afghanistan, for a total of 1,424 participants. This data is a starting point for more effectively leveraging the economic contributions of Afghan women now, in the near future, and beyond. Afghan women and their economic empowerment are crucial to the development of Afghanistan, and understanding their challenges, business climate, and unique perspective is important in aiding their success.

Launching the report: James Cunningham, Fauzia Habibi, Najila Habibyar, and Ainsley Butler

Huge challenges remain, but the report portrays a promising picture of the Afghan women. This report highlights that over half of the women surveyed joined the workforce in the past five years, and over 96 percent of them have the support of their families. Although corruption, access to financing, and security problems are the biggest barriers to women’s economic participation in Afghanistan, the surveyed women are generally positive about the potential successes and growth of their businesses and companies during the last decade.

Building Markets hopes that organizations working in Afghanistan will take the report as their own and use the findings to support Afghan women’s economic development.

Photo Credits – Esmatullah Stanikzai, Building Markets

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