Women's Rights

Determined to work: Afghan women open second market in Herat city

By Omar

As restrictions on Afghan women have forced thousands out of their jobs and to stay at home, women in eastern province of Herat are creating work opportunities for themselves by establishing a new market. The bazaar, called Marmar, is in a busy market in downtown Herat city, where women sell handicrafts and other products. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- As restrictions on Afghan women have forced thousands out of their jobs and to stay at home, women in Herat are creating work opportunities for themselves by establishing a bazaar.

The bazaar, called Marmar, is in a busy market in downtown Herat city, where women sell their handicrafts and other products.

Marmar is the second bazaar for women in Herat, established less than two months after the opening of Princess Market.

Mahtab Ahmadi, 22, one of the shopkeepers in Marmar, said the establishment of the bazaar by women at the peak of restrictions and deprivations is "a miracle".

A female shopkeeper shows her jewelries to a customer at the Herat city Marmar Market, run by and for women, on January 16. [Omar/Salaam Times]

A female shopkeeper shows her jewelries to a customer at the Herat city Marmar Market, run by and for women, on January 16. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Women opened the bazaar in reaction to the current restrictions, to send the message that Afghan women will never surrender, she said.

"We need to work and financially support our families," she said. "It is a great injustice that we stay home and depend on others."

"The establishment of Marmar bazaar is a motivation to other women and girls who want to get out of their homes and work," Ahmadi said. "Women and girls need support in the current circumstances and the slightest support encourages them to return to societal activities."

Marzia Ghulami, 37, another shopkeeper at Marmar bazaar, said she is happy to be able to work outside her home.

"Since starting my shop, I have found hope for life again," she said. "With the income I get, I support my family so that they have food to eat."

"I have started my business with high spirits and motivation and I want to expand it," she said. "The more income I have, the more independent I will be and will be able to build a better future for myself."

If women and girls are given the opportunity, in addition to supporting their families, they can make positive changes in society, Ghulami added.

Building a better future

Marmar bazaar has 46 shops, all of which are run by women and girls.

The shopkeepers, who have experienced months of unemployment and being trapped at home, have started their businesses with strong motivation and hope for a better future.

Shopkeeper Farzana Noorzai said that when she was forced to stay home, she had lost hope and was suffering from economic hardships.

"By working, we women can rescue ourselves from economic problems and build a better future for ourselves," she said.

"After returning to work, I found hope again and felt like I have started a new life," she said.

Afghan women and girls need support from the people of Afghanistan and the international community so that they can stand on their own feet, Noorzai added.

"Most women who have shops at this bazaar were unemployed and at home until [very recently], but now each of them is the breadwinner for her household," said Sediqa Tamaski, another shopkeeper at Marmar.

"Each of these women have a 7-to 8-member family that will remain hungry unless they work."

"I have seven people in my family that need to be fed and I am the only breadwinner," she said. "Who will pay for my family's expenses if I don't work?"

Although the Marmar bazaar is newly established, families and women have warmly welcomed it, and sales are good, Tamsaki said.

Defying restrictions

Despite the increasing restrictions on Afghan women and girls in recent months, hundreds of women have expanded their business activities in Herat.

By ignoring the restrictions, they have been working very hard to achieve their goals, said Behnaz Saljuqi, deputy director of the Women's Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Afghanistan's western provinces.

"Their high spirits and motivation have made restriction and challenges ineffective," she said.

"A lot of women applied for space once we opened the Marmar bazaar, and all of the shops were taken within two days, which shows the interest women have in working outside their homes," she said.

Shakila Mohammadi, a shopkeeper at Marmar bazaar, said that if she abides by the restrictions, she will never be able to work and realise her dreams.

"Most women like to work outside their homes like in the past but are afraid of the current situation," she said. "In my view, women cannot live in fear. They have to forget about fear and achieve their dreams and goals."

"It has been proven in recent months that women will not give in to restrictions and the more these increase, the more resolute women and girls are to move forward," she said.

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The Taliban should listen to the talks of the Iranian and Pakistani clerics regarding women's education and work and see how they are going on and how the Taliban government is going on. The great scholars of the world and then the teachers of Iran and Pakistan in Afghanistan's neighborhood believe that women have equal rights to education and no government or official can stop them. Maulvi Abdul Hameed, a senior imam of Zahedan, Iran, said in his recent comments, "women's education is not different from men's education. Modern and religious sciences are necessary for the women just as they are necessary for the men. All are equal for women and men and there is no difference. It is not good for any government or system to prevent the education of women or men." Therefore, when such great scholars, or the great scholars of Egypt or the great scholars of Saudi Arabia, whom the Taliban consider very honorable and respectful, it is useful for them to listen to what they say. If they have not told the current Afghan government face to face, they have pointed at it tens of times to allow women to work and study. Afghanistan is the only country in the region and the world where the ruling authorities have prevented girls and women from getting an education and universities above the 6th grade. At the same time, they have prohibited them from working in many areas where they are needed. The day the Taliban came to power, they banned girls above the 6th grade from going to schools in m


It is wondering as the women want to work for women, but we say no, stay at home. And then we add that "a woman is either of the house or of the grave." This proverb is becoming increasingly common nowadays, but if we carefully consider that our wife, sister, mother, daughter, or other relatives need a female shopkeeper to supply goods, why should we make them sit at home instead of supporting them? We always talk about honor. Therefore, it is an honor to support the shopkeeper for the sake of our wife, sister, and mother... and say that instead of the man, stuff should be purchased from her. It is useful to open such markets in other big and small cities so that women and girls can confidently come and buy their needed goods. Also, women who make handicrafts at home sell them in these markets. With this, there will be relationships between female customers and female entrepreneurs. It is useful for the government to work for this work and open similar markets in all provinces so that women can interact with women. So that is the Islamic system, hahaha.


Opening a women's market in Herat province is a good step. Women can sell their handicrafts in this marble market. The men of Herat Province should try to treat women of the Marmar market with good manners and treat them with great respect like their sisters, so that these women can continue their work with high spirit. Men, by buying your necessary items from the marble market, strengthen the spirit of women. At least, you can help by purchasing your needed stuff from the Marmar market. Along with these women, we should not behave badly, and encourage the courage of these women who work in these conditions.


It is good news. May God make it happen as, besides Herat, similar markets be built in other provinces like Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Baghlan, Kunduz, etc., and especially in the capital Kabul. The more women develop, the better the name of Afghans and Afghanistan gets popular, but this should not mean that we should close the doors of schools and universities to women. Through Salam Times, we request the Taliban government to provide opportunities for women to work and for girls to study at schools and universities as soon as possible.