Women's Rights

Herat women's handicraft expo brings glimmer of hope amid restrictions

By Omar

Despite challenges and restrictions on women's activities outside their homes in Afghanistan, dozens of woman-owned businesses launched a handicraft exhibition from March 11 through March 16 in Herat province. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- A handicraft exhibition that wraps up today (March 16) in Herat is showcasing the work of dozens of woman entrepreneurs from the province, even as they continue to face increasing social and employment restrictions.

The six-day exhibition, which kicked off Saturday, features 45 booths displaying handicrafts and woman-made products including clothes, handwoven carpets, jewelry and food.

Hosting one of the booths is Shabana Seena, who owns a jewellery-making shop in Herat city and employs close to a dozen women and girls in her enterprise.

At her shop, high school and university students who have been prohibited from attending school craft various items of jewelry -- earrings, bracelets, necklaces and anklets -- from a variety of gemstones.

Female entrepreneurs show products to a customer on March 11, the opening day of a handicraft exhibition in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Female entrepreneurs show products to a customer on March 11, the opening day of a handicraft exhibition in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Even though demand is very low and restrictions are impacting her work, Seena said she has not lost motivation and continues to persevere with her business.

"It is indeed a difficult time for women, but we stand united and fight together against the limitations in hope of victory," she said. "I hope I can regain the momentum to grow my business."

"I used to export my products to other provinces and even abroad during the previous government," she said. "But the situation is different now because exports have stopped and there is no market in Herat."

Afghanistan's economic crisis has hurt women's businesses, and they have lost many customers, she said.

"My business has not been that good over the past several months, and neither has my motivation, but I never gave up," said garment and cosmetics shop owner Shabnam Ghanizada.

"If I did not work hard, my business would have collapsed from the ongoing restrictions and other associated challenges," she said.

"They have imposed harsh restrictions to prohibit women from working, but these efforts have so far failed. We remain determined to work outside the home, and we will not let anyone confine us."

Ghanizada said she is committed to fighting against restrictions no matter how strict and harsh they might be.

Uplifting others

Some woman entrepreneurs in Herat province have taken the initiative to create jobs for women who have been deprived of work and access to education.

Among them is Friba Sediqi, who owns a garment-making shop in Guzara district, Herat province, and employs about 25 female workers to make handicrafts, event clothes, bridal wear and traditional Afghan clothing.

She pays each employee -- most of whom are the sole breadwinners in their households -- a monthly salary of 5,000 AFN ($56).

"Market conditions have not been good over the past year or so, and people cannot buy clothes because of the ongoing financial crisis," Sediqi said.

She used to export traditional Afghan clothes to Europe and the United States, she added, "but now the export has completely stopped".

"We do have the capacity to produce and to export, but we lack appropriate co-operation and support from concerned partners," she explained.

Sediqi launched her business in 2016 with just 10,000 AFN ($113). Today, she said, she has cumulative capital of about 1.3 million AFN ($14,740).

"Despite the daunting challenges, we have not lost our motivation and will not stop our efforts," she said.

The number of woman entrepreneurs has been increasing in Herat, according to Behnaz Saljuqi, deputy chairwoman of the Herat Women's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"We have noticed that the ongoing restrictions against women's work in Herat have been ineffective for over the last year," she said, with the growing number of women returning to the marketplace encouraging others to do the same.

"Two markets dedicated to women have opened in Herat over the past five months," she noted, with another set to open next month in Herat city.

Creating hope

Women's initiatives such the exhibition are inspiring, said second-year Herat University student Sadia Hamid, who was forced to abandon her studies in law and political science and remain at home.

"This exhibition has given me great hope," she said. "I am very happy that women and girls can be active in society in the current situation."

"These efforts reaffirm that women do not want their achievements to be lost or their rights to be violated," she said.

"If we want to build a bright future, everyone must stand together and fight against restrictions by using their potential and capacity."

The exhibition encouraged other women and girls to come out and participate in society without fear, she said.

Herat city 11th grade student Zia Gul Taimuri said the exhibition opened a window of hope for women and girls who are confined at home and suffer from mental and emotional anxieties.

"When I entered the exhibition, I felt very good and I was very happy," she said. "I felt hopeful because I saw women work and actively participate in society by ignoring restrictions."

"I urge other women not to stay at home but to come out and work in society to stand on their own two feet. With these efforts, they can expand their business and give hope for life for other women."

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There are a lot of economic problems in Afghanistan. People make a lot of efforts to buy only food. Majority of Afghans cannot earn money to feed their family, let alone they buy hand-embroidered clothes. During the era of the republican government, most of the women were government employees or worked in foreign organizations and received monthly salaries. With that income, they could buy anything for themselves. Currently, women are sitting idle at their homes, and they do not have any kind of money and they cannot buy anything for themselves. From this point of view, the purchase power of women's clothes has decreased. Women who work in handicrafts, try hard to find customers outside of Afghanistan for their handicraft work, so that they can sell the famous Afghan clothes to European markets, and they have many buyers in foreign countries. Women should not be disappointed, God willing, everything will be fine.


We Pashtuns are zero in the field of action. We are the people on the stage, and we want rights for women on the stage. We do not do anymore in practice. And when it comes to rights on the stage, we want it for other women. We do not ask for the rights of our sisters, wives, or any other female member of the family to study and work. The women of Herat and Mazar and their men should be praised. Because women work in the field of action, and men create the ground for them to work. Pashtun women are also interested in work and education, but men ignore it. They do marketing for other women but do not let his sister and daughter out of the house. If they leave, they are rare and little.


When you talk about the Pashtuns, please either mention yourself or mention (a number), (some), (few), (a lot) with it. Because not all Pashtuns are like you mentioned. Pashtuns also have bright people, intelligent people, and less intelligent people. And that's normal. Pashtuns have always been elite people in Afghanistan and still are. We all hate the Taliban (the vast majority of whom are Pashtuns), and I don't approve of many of their policies. However, if we compare the times of the fall of the Taliban government in 2001 and the fall of the Republic at the hands of the Taliban a year and a half ago, there is a big difference between the two. With the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, the former Northern Alliance (mostly Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras) brutally killed thousands of Taliban prisoners in Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz, burying them alive and putting them in containers while shooting at the containers and putting the containers on fire with the prisoners inside. It is worth noting that American soldiers also witnessed the scene but did not stop the atrocities of the Northern Alliance militias. The Northern Alliance's domination over Kabul and then the opposition of the Northern Alliance for five years and even until the end, the opposition of the Alliance against the system caused the collapse of the Republic. This means that 50% of the hand of the Taliban and 50% of the Northern Alliance were involved in the fall of the Republic. The people of the Alliance were


As there are many economic problems in Afghanistan today and our country's financial situation is not good, providing such opportunities will be very good. On the one hand, domestic production will increase with this, and on the other hand, those families who do not have a male head will provide sustenance for their families. It would be great if the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan could provide exhibitions in this format for female industrialists. Another thing is that our domestic Afghan products have many fans in foreign countries. These goods that are produced here should be given the opportunity to be exported abroad so that our exports will improve and the economic condition of our country's people will improve. Naseeb


I agree with you. There should be more job opportunities for the women. In fact, Afghan clothing has a good market in the foreign world. We hope that the ruling system will provide the opportunity to send these Afghan goods to foreign countries. If this happens, on one hand, the Afghani clothes will find a market in the foreign countries, and on the other hand, Afghan women will be encouraged for economic development.