Afghan Voices: Afghan Women’s Economic Participation
Last week at the AUAF, Building Markets launched Afghan Women’s Economic Participation Report. At the event, the message was clear: ensuring that Afghan women are supported and women’s progress is a priority. Investments are being made in supporting women due to their very high rate of return: women’s economic empowerment is the single most effective poverty alleviation mechanism contributing to a society’s prosperity.
Equality in the workplace helps lift people out of poverty and contributes to higher GDP levels, yet around the world women continue to represent an untapped economic potential.
Globally, women-owned businesses are an increasingly important driver of change in the private sector and a major contributing factor for broad and inclusive economic development.
It has been said that Afghanistan is one of the most difficult places in the world to be a woman. But you wouldn’t know this when you meet:
- Hasina, who owns several businesses
- Freshta, who supports a family of 8 through her job
- Mehriah, who is pursuing a Master’s degree
- Sosan, who learned English as a cleaner and now works as an office administrator
- Dr. Sima, an internationally-acclaimed champion of human rights
You wouldn’t guess that it is so incredibly difficult to be a woman in Afghanistan when you read about:
- Mariam and Nazifa, members of the Afghan women’s national cycling team and Tahmina, an Olympian
- Rangina and her counterparts, Parliamentarians known around the world
- Zala, a Fulbright scholar
- Shugufa, a jeweller who sells her stunning pieces at home and abroad
- Dr. Sakena, whose educational organization has reached millions of people and who says: ”Don’t feel pity. [Afghan women] are strong and they have dignity.”
Because of these women and their achievements, Building Markets endeavoured to learn more about Afghan women who are active in the workplace and who own their own businesses. We spoke to people in their communities who know them and attempted to fill in the as-yet-incomplete picture of women’s economic participation in Afghanistan.
The findings in this report fill a knowledge gap. It is a baseline that will inform the future by measuring progress, identifying setbacks and barriers, and helping Afghan women work to overcome them, as they have already done and will continue to do.
The timing of this report is critical. In 2014, Afghan people will make the difficult transition to determining the country’s future. As this study demonstrates, it is clear that Afghan women have a key role to play in the economic growth and development of their country.
Women are one of Afghanistan’s most valuable resources. The women surveyed for this report provide insight into how they can be supported for success— at the family level, in the workplace, by the Afghan government and the international community.
This report could not have been produced without the participation of so many organizations and individuals. We are incredibly grateful to the women entrepreneurs, business owners, employees, and others who willingly contributed their time to helping us better understand the situation of women in the economy. It is their voices that matter the most.