Women's Rights

Female entrepreneurs defy restrictions to maintain businesses in Balkh

By Muhammad Qasem

A woman speaks with customers at her store in Rabia Balkhi market last November 23 in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh province. [Courtesy of Zabihullah Labibpur]

A woman speaks with customers at her store in Rabia Balkhi market last November 23 in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh province. [Courtesy of Zabihullah Labibpur]

KUNDUZ -- A number of Afghan women are continuing to work at a market that was created for women in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh province.

The Rabia Balkhi market was established in 2011 with the goal of empowering women and creating entrepreneurship opportunities.

Situated in the southern part of the city, the market -- and its 60 woman-owned shops -- is still functional following the collapse of the previous government last August.

Girls and women have suffered a curtailment of their rights since August.

Under the previous government, more than 27% of civil servants were women. Now, they have been told to stay home until further notice, and women's right to work remains in question.

The new government also prohibits girls from attending school after sixth grade.

Despite reduced activity at the market, women are still coming to work in the face of adversity.

Businesses that were thriving at the market before August are now seeing slower sales, said Habiba Amini, director of the Rabia Balkhi market.

"There are 60 shops altogether in this market for women. Previously about five women worked in each shop, and they were conducting seminars, exhibitions and programmes," Amini told Salaam Times.

Now, one or two women work in each shop, she said.

The market played a vital role in empowering women's entrepreneurship capacity and has helped them become economically self-sufficient and contribute to their household economy, she added.

"There was no market for women in Mazar-e-Sharif in the past ... because women culturally were not allowed to do business with men," Shafiqa Timori, a shopkeeper at the market, told Salaam Times.

"Now that there is a designated market for women, we can discuss business challenges, share our experiences and find solution to the problems," Timori said.

Supporting families

The market is also allowing women to provide for the families amid a growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Halima Faqiri, a saleswoman at the market who has worked since 2017, said that she can earn enough to support her family and pay for her children's school expenses.

She prepares and sells homemade bread, samosas, bolani and other various kinds of food in her shop.

"I am so grateful to Allah Almighty that my business is running. I can earn about 600 AFN ($5.71) daily, and my income satisfies my family needs," she said.

A number of women who have lost their husbands are among those working in the market.

Mohnisa, 42, who lost her husband in a traffic accident in Mazar-e-Sharif city eight years ago, said that she has economically become self-sufficient after confronting many difficulties and challenges.

"I struggled so hard for many years and endured exorbitant expenses, and my efforts have finally paid off. I am so happy that I can now support my family," she told Salaam Times.

Her shop was closed for a few days in August but now is open for business, said Mohnisa.

Preventing women from working not only increases economic challenges in Afghanistan but drives up poverty amongst households across the country, Ziauddin Bashardost, a resident of Mazar-e-Sharif, told Salaam Times.

If women and girls are allowed to work in different sectors as they did in the past, they will be able to improve their economic situation and help reduce poverty at the household level, he said.

"If women gain the opportunity to work in any sector, they can make a difference," he added.

"Balkh women have proved that they are ready to work outside their homes under any circumstances," said Nafisa Majidi, who sells handicrafts in the market.

Majidi urged the international community to continue supporting Afghan women and not to let the gains of 2001–2021 to fade away.

Women's capabilities

By participating in various activities over the past 20 years, women have proved themselves and their capabilities, said Nasrin Habibi, a women's rights activist in Kunduz.

"Women and girls account for half of society, and if they are deprived of work, it means half of the society is being diluted," she added.

"Women, like men, have studied and made progress over the past two decades. Therefore, educated women and girls must be provided with the opportunity to work outside their homes in government offices and the private sector," Habibi said.

She called on the authorities to cease all restrictions on women and to allow them to participate in society the same way as men.

Women's participation in handicrafts and other businesses is still flourishing in the province, and authorities must provide more opportunities for the economic and business growth of female entrepreneurs, said Mohammad Hassan Ansari, deputy chairman of the Balkh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a private organisation.

"Women have played a crucial role in many sectors, specially in the production of carpet, handicrafts and food. Moreover, there are women who have business licences, and some of them even have exported their products," he said.

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5. Men should be made aware of women's rights. The National Assembly, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs can work together to introduce an article in the law by Parliament to inform men about women's rights. 6. The government should set up illiteracy courses, and education should be made compulsory. The Ministry of Education can play an essential role in this area. If the above solutions are implemented, the economic problems of Afghan women will undoubtedly be solved to a great extent.


C. Vocational courses, such as cleaning, jam making, poultry, agriculture, animal husbandry, and tailoring. The Ministries of Agriculture and Education can play an important role. D. To provide employment opportunities for poor and widowed women living near the cities, create small factories in which women can work. 3- Enforcing the law: a) creating new articles to facilitate the life of women b) Strict and serious legal action against anyone who oppresses women c) Building the mentality of men, establishing a hotline to address women's legal issues so that women can register their problems without embarrassment and awareness. This line should be in every region of Afghanistan. The Ministries of Communications and Justice can help in this regard. 4. Customs and traditions must be in accordance with the law. When a woman becomes a widow and childless, she is considered careless, and her property is stolen. She is either forcibly married or sent to his father's house. Her rights must be protected by law. The Ministries of Justice, Interior and Hajj and Religious Affairs, and the National Assembly can play an important role in this area. 5. Men should be made aware of women's rights. The National Assembly, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs can work together to introduce such an article in the law by the parliament to inform men about women's rights. to be continued


Lack of security, lack of a complete mechanism for protecting women's rights, lack of law enforcement, evil customs and traditions, inappropriate customs, male domination, and illiteracy are the major problems against the economic development of Afghan women. In a country where an eternal war is raging, and remote villages and urban life are far away, there are no schools, no markets, no factories, weak government, no male rulers, and no application of Islamic law. People do not know Islamic law when a woman becomes a widow and has no children, and her inheritance is introduced. Her husband's property is looted because he does not have a son, then all of them lead to women's poverty. And they are the leading cause of women's economic problems. Solutions: 1. The Ministries of Interior, National Defense, and Director of National Security can play an essential role in strengthening security. If security is restored, women will have the opportunity to lead an everyday life. 2. Establish a comprehensive mechanism for the protection of women's rights, taking into account the following: A. Establishing a women's market in the villages to sell their handicrafts. The government can do this in NGOs. The Ministries of Commerce and Economic and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry can be very helpful. B. These women are provided markets in the cities. to be continued


Similar markets need to be made for the women in the Afghan society because a woman can purchase items at such a market fearlessly even if a male family member does not accompany her; however, lately, only restrictions have increased against the women in Afghanistan, while such possibilities are not given to them. If the Taliban government is here to work with men, they may better make such markets and similar other business centers so that their words are considered essential. If they are putting restrictions, people won't face difficulties.

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Go away, shitty man. Beating the crusaders! Do you, the son of beating, know what beating is? The term crusaders is an old term that is not given importance at all nowadays. And what kind of beating? Sixty-one thousand of the national army soldiers were killed, Afghans, 55 thousand Taliban were killed, and they were Afghans, at least 70 thousand civilians were killed. They were Afghans, hundreds of thousands of others got disabled, and they were Afghans, millions of others left the country, millions of others die of hunger now. Now you may think again about your dirty thinking that who was beaten? Did the crusaders, the way you said got beaten, or were we defeated because of our stupidity? I would call it stupidity because the Americans' towers were destroyed either by Arabs or by Pakistanis, or by Americans themselves; however, the revenge was taken from Afghans, and it is still going on.