WORLD NEWS
08/31/2017 01:28 pm ET Updated Sep 01, 2017

Nothing Can Stop This Afghan Super Mom From Providing For Her Family

Often as she works, one son helps chop wood while her other children study.

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.

Smoke and fire irritate her eyes, and she is short of breath. Some nights she is too tired to eat. She keeps losing weight due to hard work. But neighbors know her as a cheerful baker, whose charcoal-powered workshop is a source of daily bread for many. This a story is about Zakia, a young woman in Kabul.

Zakia wants to work because she does not want to depend on anybody. She starts her job at 4 a.m. and works late, until 9 p.m. Her loyal customers wouldn’t believe it, but she says hates baking. But the small business promises a better future for her children: a daughter, Roqaya (11), and two sons, Mahdi (15) and Abdulhadi (13).

She lives with her children in a small, dark house measuring only 10 by 13 feet. Zakia`s husband, Khadem, died in a traffic accident in Kabul, and she has been supporting the family ever since. She is literally the family’s breadwinner.

Zakia started out as a domestic helper, a job that requires long hours. She remembers one Ramadan evening when she got trapped by mass protests on her way home. Her husband’s relative refused to help her out, displeased that she was out alone. A stranger helped her reach home late that night. Then she cried more than when her husband died.

After that night, she decided to work in a bakery. “If I work in bakery, I can be with my children,” Zakia told me. She buys wood from the store near her home. Mahdi helps her chop it. He quit his studies to help his struggling mother.

Abdulhadi and Roqaya are still able to study. Roqaya, who is too young to remember her late father, wants to be a doctor, and Zakia wishes more than anything that her daughter will achieve her dreams.

Despite her grueling work and hard life, Zakia remains optimistic about the future.

  • Zakia takes bread to a customer in Kabul.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Zakia takes bread to a customer in Kabul.
  • Zakia at her work in her Kabul bakery in 2016.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Zakia at her work in her Kabul bakery in 2016.
  • Zakia talks with her customers at her bakery.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Zakia talks with her customers at her bakery.
  • A photo of Khadem, Zakia's late husband, hangs on her wall. He died in a traffic accident 11 years ago, leaving her to s
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    A photo of Khadem, Zakia's late husband, hangs on her wall. He died in a traffic accident 11 years ago, leaving her to support her family.
  • Zakia cooks for her two sons and a daughter in her kitchen.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Zakia cooks for her two sons and a daughter in her kitchen.
  • Zakia with a bakery customer.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Zakia with a bakery customer.
  • Zakia pulls bread out of the oven.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Zakia pulls bread out of the oven.
  • Roqaya, 11, comes to the bakery every day to help her mother.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Roqaya, 11, comes to the bakery every day to help her mother.
  • Zakia and two of her children watch TV at the end of the day.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Zakia and two of her children watch TV at the end of the day.
  • Zakia at work.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Zakia at work.
  • Portrait of Zakia as she bakes.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Portrait of Zakia as she bakes.
  • Zakia, in the yard of her home, prepares food for her hen.
    Mahbooba Hazara / Sahar Speaks
    Zakia, in the yard of her home, prepares food for her hen.
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