WORLD NEWS
08/31/2017 01:30 pm ET Updated Sep 01, 2017

Women Are Opening Their Own Businesses In Afghanistan, Whether Men Like It Or Not

In a shop, at a restaurant -- it's not just a man's world in the workplace.

Afghanistan is teeming with the untold stories of half of its population. Sahar Speaks gives a rare and revealing look into Afghan women’s lives, as reported by Afghan women on the ground.

Bakhtawar

Nilofar Niekpor / Sahar Speaks

Bakhtawar is a 50-year-old Afghan business owner in Kabul. She has one son and four daughters. When her children grew up, they each carried on with their lives, leaving the nest. Her husband often traveled abroad for work. So Bakhtawar started to get bored at home, and, after consulting with her husband, decided to open a women’s clothing shop.

At first her father and brothers opposed the shop, arguing that it was inappropriate for a woman to start her own business. But she stood up to them and became the first woman to own and run a store in Kabul.

Bakhtawar has been selling women’s clothes for about three years and has had her fair share of complaints from men, who criticize her for doing what they think is a man’s job. One day a man came into the shop and wanted to buy clothes for less than her price. When she refused to give him a discount, he hurled insults at her.

Bakhtawar believes that every job has its problems, but over time most men have come to realize that being a saleswoman is a worthy job.

Sadaf

Nilofar Niekpor / Sahar Speaks

Sadaf is 16 years old. She is one of the first girls to work as a waitress in a busy restaurant in Kabul. 

She had to quit school after seventh grade and start working to help her family, which was suffering financially.

She supports her sister and brother with the money she earns from the restaurant. Her mother is a baker. Their father left them eight years ago. Every day she works 12 hours, sometimes playing the guitar for diners at the 50/50 Restaurant, which serves traditional Afghan fare.

Nilofar Niekpor / Sahar Speaks

In her free time, Sadaf enjoys reading and hopes to go back to school one day. Her ambition is to become a colonel in the military, so she’s looking for a night school for girls where she can continue her studies.

When she returns home at night, the neighborhood boys harass her, but she continues her walk with her head down as she holds on to her dreams. 

Mahboba Ibrahimi

Nilofar Niekpor / Sahar Speaks

Mahboba Ibrahimi is a 20-year-old management student. She and her older sister have opened a shop in one of Kabul’s many markets, and the two of them sell women’s clothing.

When ladies go to her shop and see a woman behind the counter, they feel more comfortable because they’re getting a woman’s advice about clothing. Mahboba, whose wares include dresses made by Afghan women, is happy to be serving the women of her country this way. 

Fawzia Bayat  

Nilofar Niekpor / Sahar Speaks

Fawzia Bayat is a 50-year-old Afghan woman. She had to move to Iran with her family when the Taliban came to power in the 1990s. While there, she worked as a  saleswoman for almost 20 years.

She is unlike others in her profession: She doesn’t receive any complaints from people and she believes Afghans can understand that they need women doctors and engineers as much as they need saleswomen.

Fawzia is lucky because her family and husband are supportive and encouraging.

She has three daughters and three sons. One of her daughters provides financial support and helps her mother import goods from Turkey, India and Iran.

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