Women's Rights

Afghan girls deprived of education showcase handicrafts at Kabul exhibition

By Hamza

Women visit handicraft booths at the Kabul International Exhibition on May 15. [Hamza/Salaam Times]

Women visit handicraft booths at the Kabul International Exhibition on May 15. [Hamza/Salaam Times]

KABUL -- At the recently concluded Kabul International Exhibition, dozens of booths boasted handicrafts and products made by female entrepreneurs, many of whom are girls who have been deprived of education in recent years.

Interest in their products was high and sales were good, they told Salaam Times. But nothing can replace going to school and finishing their education.

"The presence of women and girl entrepreneurs in the exhibition was very prominent, with some 100 booths allocated for them," said Sakhi Ahmad Paiman, deputy chairperson of the Afghanistan Chamber of Industries and Mines and one of the exhibition's organisers.

Almost 600 local entrepreneurs from all over Afghanistan participated in the exhibition, which ran from May 11-16.

"We organised the exhibition to introduce and promote domestic products and support national investors," he said.

The event attracted about 160,000 visitors, about half of whom were women and girls.

"When girls were prohibited from going to school, I decided I wasn't going to stay at home and be isolated, so I started my own home business making Afghan clothes with the help of my family," said Rokhshana Azimi, a former 11th-grade student.

"Visitors to the exhibition welcomed our products, and the sales were good," she told Salaam Times.

Still, Azimi said it pains her not to be able to go to school and finish her education.

"If schools were not closed to girls, thousands of other girls and I would have been going to university by now," she said.

"Women and girls have the same rights as men to go to school and university, open businesses and invest. They can play an equal part in society. This is an Islamic and human right," Azimi said. "Imposing restrictions on women cannot eliminate them from society."

For 17-year-old Sodaba Behrouz, owner of Noqra (Silver) Brand, who exhibited her products at the event, no one and nothing can prevent girls from being active members of society.

"It has been nearly two years that other girls above sixth grade and I have been deprived of the right to pursue our education," she said.

"However, the dominant presence and participation of dozens of entrepreneurial and professional girls at the Kabul International Exhibition showed that no one ... can prevent Afghan girls from running their own business and activities."

Sodaba's products include silver jewellery made with Afghan precious stones and Afghan clothes, which she said were very popular with visitors to the exhibition.

"Our sales in particular and the sales of all other entrepreneurial girls and women at the exhibition were really good," she said, adding that she still hopes that one day, she will be able to resume her education.

Women's contribution to economic growth

Organising such exhibitions has "an extremely positive effect" on women and girls and plays a vital role in the economic growth and development of the country, said Mumtaz Yousufzai, a member of the Afghanistan Women's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"The more conducive and favourable the business environment is for women and girls, the more society will prosper and poverty will be reduced," he said.

"We live in a situation where poverty has reached its highest level in our country," he said. "That's why, women's participation in the workforce, and girls opening businesses and going to school will only ... improve the economic situation and achieve self-sufficiency for [Afghan] society."

"Today, I saw in the exhibition that girls, who have been prohibited from education, turned to the handicraft business and exhibited their products," he said.

"Owning a business is a very good thing for girls, but schools and universities should reopen unconditionally and girls should return to school and continue their education, and work as professional businesspeople in the future," said Saleha Sakhizada, director of a handicraft company who took part in the exhibition.

Female entrepreneur Parwain Ashrafi, 57, said she and her two daughters came from Parwan province to take part in the exhibition.

After schools were closed to girls, Ashrafi started a handicraft business with her daughters.

"I am very happy that my daughters started a small business. However, I do not see any reason to replace my girls' education [with work]," she said.

"As a mother, I call on the government to immediately reopen girls' schools so that they do not remain uneducated," she added.

"Money can never substitute for education, and girls should be allowed to go to school," said Rokhsar Hashimi, a former 12th-grade student at a Kabul school.

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Boys and girls should be educated at the same time when they become teenagers, not trade. If girls and boys are deprived of education at the time when it is their time to be educated, they will never be able to be educated again, because once they enjoy they sucked the money once, they are more interested in earning money and not in education. We must try not to allow our sons and daughters to work until they have finished their university. Our government should open girls' schools and universities to students as soon as possible. It is obligatory to educate both men and women. The current government of Afghanistan, allow our girls to continue their education, and this is the legal right of our girls.


This activity is much better than sitting down idle. First, they tried making handicrafts and then brought them to the exhibition to sell. With this, these girls can achieve two goals: to earn a certain amount of money. Another is that this method sends a message to those who have prevented girls from getting an education. The message can be that girls can continue their journey in any situation and not leave their path. It means that girls and women are also capable of all the jobs that men can do.