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Woman-Owned Businesses Thriving in Afghanistan

In the U.S., women-owned businesses represent 30 percent of all businesses in the country. They are thriving and have increased by 79 percent since 1997. But the U.S. is not the only country where women-owned businesses are growing. They are also thriving in a country that is still considered one of the worse places on earth to be a woman -- Afghanistan.

"What are women doing here?"

It is not uncommon to hear men make this statement about women going into business in Afghanistan. But in spite of social pressures and other obstacles, there are currently 1,413 women registered as business owners in Afghanistan, according to the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency. Many are the breadwinners in the family due to being widowed, while others want to help provide economic support for the family along with their husbands. Their businesses are thriving in spite of living in an extremely conservative country where women in business is just not common.

Things are getting better

Fifteen years ago, it was worse. When Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban, women were not allowed to work or even study. They were required to be totally covered by a burka when going out in public. Today, women are not only in public selling their products but are also attending exhibitions where they manage booths to sell their products to customers. It's a very different world, although still not perfect. But they are succeeding, because they can.

Women-owned businesses are still taking a risk for harassment and other threats. This does not deter them, however, from working side-by-side with men-owned businesses. They are enjoying the independence it gives them to own their own business, and some even have husbands who are proud of what they have accomplished. They are on the rise and here to stay. Khadija Hussaini, who owns a dried fruit and nut company called Nejat, states, “If we can stand on our own two feet and have independence, this is the most valuable and important achievement.”

We could not agree with her more!