“Community business centre day is the most important day of the week for me”, said Razia, a tailor sewing small items for a local shopkeeper in Mazar e Sharif. Even after women have completed the initial training package which usually takes around 3 months and have been introduced to a market opportunity and mentored through three orders, around 60% need on going support if they are to maintain successful market engagement. This support is provided through community business centres managed by the membership-based association Nisfe Jahan.
Nisfe Jahan’s 67 Community business centres are located within walking distance of members homes (40 – 50 members per community business centre). The community business centre is located in one of the Nisfe Jahan member’s houses and is open one half-day per week. The community business centre is attended by Zardozi staff who have skills relevant for the area – usually cutting and tailoring but also livestock rearing and food processing. Women come to the centres for support on a range of issues such as:
- Design – from colour matching to product development
- Advice on sick animals, vaccinations etc
- Advice on finding a new market opportunity
- Loans and savings
and much more.
The centres are recognised as gendered space, no men are allowed and this makes it possible for many women to attend who would otherwise not be allowed to do so by male family members. The centres quickly come to mean more than a place to solve business issues as women who would otherwise not meet are able to exchange information and support each other in many ways. “Yes, we paid Najia’s membership fees for her”, said one of the members, “she had no money and she urgently needed assistance from the centre, she will pay us back later.”