Behind the blue burqa is an Afghan businesswoman
on her way to work and shedding the restraints of the past. Decades of war and repression
confined women to their homes, unable to work or study. Today nearly 90 per cent of them are illiterate.
Few are encouraged to venture outside the home to find work. But a growing number of women are finding
that the handicraft skills they practice at home can form the basis of their own business.
Nasima Payman is one of these women. She travelled to Italy to study handicraft design through
an International Labour Organization project that trains women entrepreneurs. (Nasima Payman, handicraft Designer)
In the time of the Taliban we were not allowed to go out of the houses alone. When I went
to Italy, it meant travelling far from my country, but fortunately Afghan women have
more freedom now and we would like to be active and work in society. Nasima now works with a team of women who
sew her designs. With support from the Marisa Bellisario Foundation the ILO’s project
has reached over 3000 women. Their handicraft production has improved to the point where
they are poised to enter a global market. Latifa Abasy studied at the ILO’s International
Training Centre in Turin, Italy and is passing on her knowledge to other Afghan women. (Latifa Abasy, International Trade Development
Director, Afghan Women’s Business Federation) We use a training toolkit from the International
Labour Organisation to train women in Kabul and other provinces. Step by step, they are
learning how to start a business, even with small amounts of money. Another Turin graduate, Gulsum Satarzai, runs
a handicraft market in Kabul set up exclusively for businesses run by women. (Gulsum Satarzai, Director of Afghan Women
Business Association) Before the trip to Italy, we didn’t have
the know-how to market our skills, but now we are able to sell our products both inside
Afghanistan and internationally. Despite the odds, women are pushing for their
place in the rebuilding of Afghanistan.