In the patriarchal culture of rural Afghanistan, women and girls are not allowed to move freely outside the home; because of this, they are often unable to access their rights, their education and even their good health.

Afghanaid offers young women like Afsa the opportunity to take part in vocational training and business courses alongside their school work, so that they have the opportunity to achieve their true potential, transform their futures and contribute to the development of their communities.

Afsa lives with her family in Baloch Markazi, a small village in Badakhshan, north-eastern Afghanistan. She was 16 when she took part in Afghanaid’s home gardening, food processing and enterprise skills training courses - two years down the line she has set up her own business and has big plans for the future.

“I learned a lot on Afghanaid’s training courses; now I know how to establish and maintain my own home garden and how to process what I grow into products like chutneys which I am able to sell. My favourite part was learning how to set up my own business and become a successful entrepreneur: with these skills I am changing my future.

After finishing the training course, I bought 10 chickens using a loan from the savings group established by Afghanaid. Now, I have 40 chickens and I sell their eggs in the local market. I reinvested the extra money I earned from selling the eggs to buy a cow, which has since given birth to a calf. My family can now use the milk and I use the rest to make yoghurts, which I sell along with fresh milk. I was able to repay the loan back into our savings group in instalments in just five months and now another woman from the group has been able to take out a loan and benefit as I have.

Last year I set up my own shop where I sell the processed food, milk and eggs. I also buy things like biscuits, candy and chewing gum in bulk from the large market in town and sell them for a profit in my shop, mostly to local children. I started my shop with just one box of biscuits and it has been exciting to watch it grow day by day since then! I think it is doing so well because I am always nice to my customers and I sell my products at a reasonable price.

I reinvest most of what I earn back into my business and I am always thinking of ways to expand. In the future, I would like to sell novels and nice notebooks, as I can see that there is demand for these, as well as flowers for ceremonies held in the community. One day I would also like to sell bigger things like clothes and shoes.

Before Afghanaid came into my life, I was often bored, I spent a lot of time sitting around at home or helping my mother with housework. These days I am much happier; I enjoy being busy with my business and now others depend on me, I no longer depend on others. Many people are surprised at my success and ask me how I managed to establish a successful business. I am so happy to share this knowledge; without the understanding I gained about business I would still be in the same situation as before. I hope that my sisters will become business women too - now I am giving them snacks to sell in their school.

I do not want to follow a path identified for me by others, I want to make my own path and  become a well-known, successful business woman who is independent and admired in my community.”

Afsa’s mother, Fazila, who previously spent all of her time doing household chores, is now able to help Afsa to take care of the animals and making chutneys and yoghurts. “I am so proud of Afsa and love hearing about all of her big ideas for her business. According to Islam, there is no reason why women should not engage in business and my husband and I are happy that our daughter is becoming so successful!”

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In addition to ensuring that gender equality underpins all of the work we do, we also deliver stand-alone projects which specifically target women’s economic empowerment and gender rights.

We're working to increase the understanding and acceptance of women’s rights, and to change attitudes towards issues such as violence against women and early or forced marriage.