UNDP-funded market helps Badakhshan women showcase their handicrafts

By Muhammad Qasem

The newly built market, funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), hosts 25 shops and a range of facilities dedicated to empowering woman-led businesses. The two-story building is shown July 23 in Faizabad, Badakhshan province. [Courtesy of Hakim Sayeedi]

The newly built market, funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), hosts 25 shops and a range of facilities dedicated to empowering woman-led businesses. The two-story building is shown July 23 in Faizabad, Badakhshan province. [Courtesy of Hakim Sayeedi]

FAIZABAD -- A 10,800-square-foot (1,003-square-metre) local handicraft market inaugurated last month in Badakhshan province promotes handicrafts produced and sold by Afghan women to help improve their economic conditions.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) provided 16 million AFN ($190,500) to finance the construction of the Pamir market.

The land was purchased for $71,000 in 2018 with private funding provided by 25 businesspeople, including five woman entrepreneurs, said Azraskhsh Yaftali, head of the handicraft producers' association in the market.

Construction work, which was delayed by political developments in the country, has been completed, and the facility was inaugurated in a ceremony on July 23.

Women visit a makeshift handicraft exhibition in Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan province, last October 14. [Courtesy of Manuchehr Abedi]

Women visit a makeshift handicraft exhibition in Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan province, last October 14. [Courtesy of Manuchehr Abedi]

"The market was built under the slogan of 'Our Village, Our Pride' in a two-story building on an area of about 10,800 square feet," Yaftali said.

"It is operational and boasts some 25 shops and other facilities to support businesses and entrepreneurs."

Handicrafts and other products made by women for the market will also be promoted and sold in domestic and international markets, he said.

Products include hand-embroidered rugs, carpets, vests, shirts, shawls, leather and animal products.

"These shops are rented to woman entrepreneurs at a reasonable price, and they will recruit students [to help them] according to their ability," Yaftali said, adding that the women "will be able to work here in a safe environment."


Woman entrepreneurs have welcomed the UN initiative with the hope that the market will pave the way for the export of their handicrafts to world markets.

Saeda Safoot, 38, said she has been producing handicrafts at her home in Badakhshan province over the past two years, providing employment for some 15 women.

"I am happy that a craft market has been built so now I can open a shop there and expand my activity," she said.

"Opening the market is a very good initiative for professional businesswomen because through it we can increase the volume of our products, and export them even to global markets," she added.

"The opening of a women's handicraft trade center will be a very significant step towards production and marketing of local products and women's self-sufficiency," said Amanullah Chehra, director of the Rural Rehabilitation and Development Authority in Badakhshan.

"With the opening of the handicraft market, we are witnessing a positive and important step in the economic development of women in the province," he said.

"The market has enabled the building of business relations between production groups and small enterprises," he said. "It will hopefully further strengthen the progress of these businesses and expand their customers from national to global markets."

"We hope authorities and other businesspeople in the commercial market will make serious efforts to invest in Badakhshan's handicrafts and domestic products and find a market for these products not only in other provinces but also abroad."

Increasing challenges

Despite being banned from working outside their homes, Afghan women are determined to create job opportunities for themselves and others.

The country's economic crisis has forced many women to persevere and to fight the restrictions.

Alima Mansuri, 36, said she has been producing and selling traditional Afghan clothes for the past two decades in Badakhshan's Faizabad city.

"Colorful local clothes are popular among female customers, but considering the economic crisis, the market for these types of clothes is not so good anymore," she said.

"Unfortunately, the problems facing women at all levels are increasing, but we do not shy away and are continuing our activities," she added.

"We are worried about what will happen to our lives if we have to stop our work," said Mohadasa Amani, 32, the only breadwinner for her family.

Amani makes various kinds of local clothes and sells them in the market. However, she fears that if she is barred from working, her and her children's lives will be threatened by poverty and hunger.

"There is a great demand for handicraft products because of their quality, but our work has always become more difficult because women are no longer allowed to travel outside their homes without a man," she said.

"Women have no choice but to work," Amani said, referring to the dire economic situation of many families in Badakhshan.

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It has been two years since Afghanistan has been on the sidelines of world politics. They do not recognize the region or the wider world. The army and government were destroyed, as were the hopes for the future. The country's daughters shed tears at the closed doors of the schools, and their fathers are worried about the coal-dark future of their children. Only these three or four sentences are enough to call August 15th a dark day.


Tomorrow is August 15. This was an unfortunate day in which we lost a lot. August 15th was not a day as we lost only a government structure and a few soldiers of the country. Still, instead, we lost hopes of life, intentions, values, freedom of speech, law, homeland, national sovereignty, international legitimacy, power authority, a colorful culture, peace, dream, and even more. This day was terrible, as bad as it will bother us for years and generations! Our young men, women, elders, and children face a difficult life situation. And the reason is that on August 15, the Taliban captured Kabul. The republican system collapsed, and the ISI chairman of Punjab [Pakistan] was standing in the Serena Hotel in Kabul with a cup of milk in a very arrogant manner. This day will remain in our minds for the rest of our lives...


Look, believe me, they look just like angels. Afghan women are among the most modest and most veiled women in the world. These pure angels should not be deprived of education and work. Taliban must know that Afghan women have the right to education, work and a normal life like all women in the world. This right has been proven by the Qur'an, the Prophetic hadith have proven it, and the culture of the world's civil society has proven it. The Taliban, which is the hand of Pakistan's intelligence and in general the hand of the British, should know that by preventing Afghan girls from education and preventing women from working, these ignorant people are depriving many generations of Afghans from the right to education and work, which's compensation is not easy.


Handicrafts exist because of their quality and have many fans inside and outside the country. Building this market by UNDP helps Afghan women to sell and display their products. Although the situation of women in Afghanistan is very dire, they still try to be proud of themselves and their country. The government should understand the situation of women and allow women to display and sell their products.


This is a fundamental work for women that has been done, because so far in many provinces there was no proper place to sell women's handicrafts. Now the ruling system should allow women to display their handicrafts for sale in this market. If the government would not allow, building a market will be useless. The government should understand that without women, life, business and other similar activities are tasteless and no one will enjoy such a life.