Editor’s note: The Afghan Women’s Writing Project recently conducted interviews with working women in Kabul about how women’s roles are changing in society. Here are some of the stories they told AWWP. 

Selling Perfume in the Kabul Bazaar

Fatima, age 22, works in an HB Perfumes store in Kabul province in order to earn her expenses for her postgraduate education. Fatima is not the first woman to enter this kind of business, but the Afghan community still does not readily accept women working in shops and markets. She must fight against the stereotypes to demonstrate her talents as a woman.

During a recent sunny day, I walked to the Bazaar in Kabul to meet with several different women who are working in shops as customer service providers. I asked them to tell me why they want to work under these conditions in Afghanistan.

This is what Fatima told me. “I work because I am a human and I have the right to work. Our people do not like women to do this kind of work. They just want females to be teachers at a girls’ school. They do not think that we need to have women working everywhere in order to provide more comfortable shopping for other women. I work and I study to prove my existence as a woman and a human,” she said. 

Fatima’s goal is also to gain experience in business. “I work in this store to learn more about business because in the future, if Allah wanted, I want to develop my own business and start a big market run by women, especially for women.”

I interviewed other women doing different types of work. But women in sales are a new phenomenon in Afghanistan. We are so happy to see that the women’s movement is growing in every way in our country.

Teaching Kindergarten to Support Her Advanced Degree

Next I interviewed Maryam, who is a kindergarten teacher and a student in the Faculty of Law at a private university. She teaches to pay for her own education expenses. She does not have any other sources of financial support. 

“I am a part of the young generation in society and I am educating myself to help myself and my own people due to real problems in our economy,” she said. “Even when we do not have enough to eat, I still pay for my education. I work for that goal.”

“I am a teacher because I want to help the children of my country. A woman can only be successful in society if she starts by being wise and educated,” she said.

“Even if I am poor girl and I do not have any brothers or a strong father to support me, I still have the ability to work and earn a salary of $100 per month to pay for my education. In that way, I prove myself as a woman in our community.”

Maryam does not earn enough money to buy new clothes and other things for herself. She wears her very old clothing and shoes, but she does not care. She believes that by continuing her education, one day she can become an important person in society.

Journalist, Mother, and Wife

Nahed is a strong woman who never gives up. She is raising and supporting her children alone by working as a journalist and writer.

She has four children. Her husband left her with the children to remarry. He did not offer money to pay the expenses for his children. He simply left. But she is a writer and a good poet who works at different organizations and she is able to provide her family with food, a place to live, and their education.

“I want my children to be educated, not to be a shame in society. They should be a useful person for their country and community. It is my duty as a mother to work for my children. If they get sick I should bring them to a doctor. I should take care with their education,” she said.

“But a woman who works in society faces a lot of problems,” she said.

“I think the role of a woman in society is greater than a man’s,” said Nahed. She explained that a woman first must be a good role model for her children, along with being affectionate and sympathetic and a good and faithful wife to her husband.

“A mother in society is a good role model when she does her job cheerfully at home. Then her well trained children can enter society and become successful women in society as well. A woman can be successful if she is good, hard working, and if her children are well trained and dedicated to the community, according to the laws and regulations of our society and community.”

Interviews by Manizha; editing by Seeta; photo by ISAF/US.