Afghanistan has been dominated by men for most of its history, but this cultural tradition is not necessarily part of our country’s religious beliefs. I am one of many working women in Afghanistan, and I dream about setting up my own business one day.
When democracy came to our country, women were encouraged to become prominent figures. They were urged to get involved in business and politics and be part of a more progressive Afghanistan.
The turmoil of the last three decades, with one war following another, has hindered the progress. But starting from the post-Taliban era, Afghanistan has given much exposure to women in different sectors, including business. This has given women a chance to gain economic power and become part of the global business community.
Women are starting and running different types of businesses, including quality handicrafts, food, packing, logistics, as well as media and consulting businesses. Women are progressive in Afghanistan. We want to be part of an improved and developed Afghanistan.
But the behavior of our men and society has not changed very much. This remains one of the main hindrances on women’s way to progress. It will take many years for this situation to change in Afghanistan. There has been a disconnect between the progressive and liberal Afghanistan of the 1980s and today. We lost many idealistic people, not to mention progressive leaders who could develop programs that would benefit Afghanistan. To train the people and leaders to rebuild the country will be time consuming and could take decades.
I believe that Afghanistan can attain international standards if men and women work and support each other on equal terms. Women in business in Afghanistan will improve our economy and also support household expenses. Businesses run by women can standardize lifestyles and enhance market competition. Access to global markets will increase, opening new horizons for import and export businesses.
Elaha Mahboob and Roya Mahboob of the Afghan Citadel Software Company (ACSC) in Herat. Photo by Juan Rodriguez.