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Zardozi Kabul Main Office Strategic Workshop

Every year Zardozi’s Kabul Main office holds Strategic Workshops at the beginning of the year in order to bring together overall Zardozi Executive Committee Members (ECMs), Kadars, and regional managers to work on new plans for the betterment and development of their programs for Afghan women. The participants go through the process of identifying the organization’s immediate objectives, and formulating and monitoring specific strategies to achieve them and support a larger number of women in the regions. In addition, a series of essential trainings such as human and women rights, leadership, civil society and management are conducted by the professional trainers of Zardozi Kabul Main Office as well. The Strategic workshop is held from 20th to 25th January during which the Kabul Main Office Program team together with Kadras, ECMs and regional managers discusses on important topics such as strengthening Community Business Centers (called Manbeh), managing Kadars contract with Zardozi, loan training, report writing, holding Central Committee Meetings and discussing the problems which Kadars encounter.

Nargis who is a Kadar from Jalalabad province is pleased with the instructions and guidance from Zardozi team. She says, “This workshop is a great opportunity for Kadars to share their plans. We learn from each other and can find solutions to the problems we have encountered previous year.” She also added that the workshop was the only platform where she could make a larger network and meet different women with different experiences at Zardozi.

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Fawzia’s disastrous marriage life

“When I woke up with swollen eyes from the previous night’s crying, I realized he did not deserve a second chance after all the times he had beaten me and had burnt my house that almost killed me and my children,” Fawzia told us about her drug-addicted husband in an emotional voice. Fawzia, living in the outskirts of Herat, tells us about how as a 13 year old girl, she was swindled into marrying a drug addicted man and was later harassed by her father in-law and brother in-laws.

Afghanistan is the world’s biggest supplier of illegal opiates, producing 90 percent of the opium poppies worldwide, which has largely contributed to drug addiction, domestic violence and more economic difficulties for families in Afghanistan. Women, like Fawzia, are the main victims of this miserable drug war. They either fight the hardships or lose their lives as a result of violence from their drug-addicted fathers, brothers and husbands.

As she continues to speak about her bitter past, she cries, “My husband would get angry soon, because he was not conscious of his acts. He beat me and my children. We did not have any savings and all the money that I would earn through tailoring, he would waste it on buying weed and opium while lying to me that he had started a business with it.”

Fawzia admitted her husband to a treatment center but the doctors found it impossible to cure him.  The daily violence went on until Fawzia decided to divorce him after 11 years.

When Fawzia joined Zardozi a year ago, the organization took her case into special consideration by allocating a larger loan amount for her through which she could build a room in her mother’s house and buy tailoring machines. Zardozi director, Ms. Homa Usmany, met Fawzia personally and found her in dire need of moral support and confidence to stand on her feet, to try to better her life. Fawzia attended the Manbeh where she could receive trainings, share her problems, interact with other women like her and get her problems solved through the trainers. “I became motivated by other women’s success in Manbeh and looking at them gives me hope and energy to be as successful like them,” said Fawzia.

Fawzia says that she has not seen her husband since, but she still fears that he will come back and harm her and the children.

Fawzia can cover most of her expenses with the tailoring money, but first she has to pay back the loan money, and then have some savings which she will later invest into buying her own house and opening a tailoring workshop there.



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Sadat- only woman shopkeeper in her district

“Why does one person have to bear all the financial burden and responsibility of 5 other people in family? I believe in coordination and teamwork when it comes to the economy of the family. I am as much accountable as much as my husband is.” insisted Sadat, a 25 year old mother from Herat who lives with her husband’s family. Sadat joined Zardozi in 2015 and today she is a shopkeeper selling handicrafts, cosmetics and clothing.

She started as a bead worker but since she didn’t have enough earnings, she left the job. She also left bead working in hope of achieving bigger goals and serving the community at a higher level. That is when she decided to open a shop, a scary and more difficult task to manage.

Sadat says that without Zardozi’s trainers help, introducing her to new business ideas, she wouldn’t have been able to figure out what and how she would start a business that has a higher profit margin.  Although Sadat had liked the idea of opening a shop, she thought of many challenges that would come her way. Family restrictions, inadequate cash flow to rent a place and purchase items were some of her concerns.

In addition to that, the emergence of female shopkeepers is new in Afghanistan. There are many safety and risk factors that add to the challenge. In provinces like Herat, there are more security measures in place. Most men seem to be more open-minded in this province than in more conservative areas. They will allow their sisters and wives to work outside so that they have the freedom to stand on their feet and practice their rights. This situation applies to some people but for some, like Sadat, she had obstacles to overcome.

Safety was not the only issue bothering Sadat. Family strictness and the Mullahs were also against the opinion of women shopkeepers. Sadat’s father and brothers were not happy about her shop. As head of the District Council, Sadat’s father was afraid that people would criticize him for his daughter’s work. but since money was tight, they had to allow her work and open the shop inside the house. Sadat said, with a smile on her face, “It is funny how everyone that was against me turned out to be nice to me and respect me later. It is because their needs were completed through my shop and the men would send their women only to my shop, because they felt their women are safe interacting with female shopkeeper.”

In an Afghan society, men are more comfortable when their women interact with female doctors, co-workers and shopkeepers. However, most of these men also do not allow their women to be in these positions so that women can go to them. Brave women like Sadat have taken steps forward to fight circumstances, to resist and make sacrifices to become facilitators in society. She says that it is because of her shop that the women are able to come out and speak comfortably about their needs to a woman shopkeeper.

Sadat says, “There are so many difficulties for women to speak to male shopkeepers especially when buying inner garments. A woman who is not allowed to go much out of home and is not permitted to speak to Non-Mahram feel embarrassment and an unpleasant experience to buy the necessary things from male shopkeepers. I have also learned from my female customers that they were harassed many times, and that is why they express gratitude to my shop.”

Sadat has been able to manage her business successfully and visits Zardozi’s Manbeh when she seeks advice.


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Bushra- Kitchen spices mini-factory

The economic empowerment of urban and rural women is a sign of progress for a country, which is why it is of great importance for Zardozi to introduce women to different business ideas. These women will later contribute to the economy of the country. Stung by poverty, women in rural areas are more vulnerable to violence. Our work with women in these areas is fundamental and most required. NGOs in Afghanistan have done skill trainings in many sectors, but Zardozi not only provides trainings but has found markets for the women to utilize their new found skills and help them move forward.

Bushra, 35 lives in Kaubl Hada village of Jalalabad province. In a village where even men are struggling for job opportunities, Bushra, with Zardozi’s help, learned how to tailor. She was then able to provide income for her children. As Bushra’s self-confidence and capacity grew, she wanted to try other different sectors of business. “Now that I was introduced to bazaar and saw how things work, I thought I could try something else starting from my kitchen,” Bushra said. With a loan from Zardozi, she opened the first Afghan kitchen spices run by women. She named her kitchen, ‘Eftikhar & Ilyas Masala’. Her mini-factory has also found jobs for five other women in the village.

Zardozi Jalalabad Regional Office provided valuable assistance to the Eftikhar and Ilyass kitchen spices mini-factory. They helped to build, market, and introduce Bushra and her co-workers to exhibitions where they were able to do marketing for their new Masalla products. Salima, who works in the factory, says that the exhibition was a good opportunity and the results were very good because after each exhibition they would receive many orders from the consumers.

Nasima, 22, who is another worker at Bushra’s factory showed satisfaction and appreciation to Zardozi.  “Previously we did not know anything about planning, packaging procedures, and customer relations. With Zardozi’s help, we overcame our problems and now we have our own income.”

Bushra thinks big and is more confident. “Our biggest goal is to get into a position that we sell our products in all of Afghanistan as well as export it to other countries. I want to make people realize that women can also run big businesses and own successful factories.”

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Meena: A profile

34-year-old Meena, from Kabul province is one of the very first clients of Zardozi who joined the organization when it was newly established. Meena story begins as she was given in marriage to an old man when she was only 15 years old. Meena with her 7 children lives with her in laws who treat her more as a servant. She does all home chores on her own for 12 hours every day. Meena having suffered the unfair conditions of her life, had lost complete hope. She said, “After marrying, my happiness ceased to exist.

I thought this is my destiny and I have to live with it forever.” “One day when one of our neighbors came to our home said that there is an organization who help women to put an end to their miseries. I was very encouraged when the women told me a lot about the organization and how it had influenced her life positively.” Meena added.

Meena joined Zardozi secretly with the support of her sister in law with whom she had built good relations during her marriage life. Meena shared this problem with Zardozi who advised her to convince her family, because in a country like Afghanistan where the secret behind women’s success is ‘family’s support’, Zardozi aims to work closely with the families in order to seek their support in recognizing and valuing women’s role. Therefore, some of Zardozi staff members visited Meena’s house and spoke to them about how Zardozi helps women to improve their lives as well as informed them about its Community Based Services where Meena can go for receiving trainings and finding solutions to her problems.

Fortunately, Meena was able to continue to go to Zardozi tailoring trainings. She said, “I was able to learn a lot in less time, because I had learned preliminary tailoring skills from my mother but what I needed the most to know was how to sell my products.” Taking that into consideration, Zardozi linked her to markets and introduced her to join Zardozi’s exhibitions which enabled Meena to sell her products at good prices and find more customers.

Meena now handles tailoring business, works at her mini beauty parlor and also makes ayurvedic medicine which she had learned from an Indian woman who used to be her neighbor.  She says, “My monthly income is 60,000/AFS which has facilitated a comfortable life for me and my family members.”

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Rabia’s Laundry Shop Business

Rabia from Mazar-e-Sharif is a war widow. Being a single parent, Rabia takes care of her 15 years old daughter and 8 years old son alone. After her husband’s death, she realized how helpless she had become, because her husband was the only breadwinner in the family but now that he was gone, Rabia had to work outside and earn money. “I did not know how to complete my children’s necessities. I went through very hard days. Some nights we had to sleep without any food and other days the home owner would warn us to evacuate for missing out on due rents” said Rabia despondently.

Rabia had to do something about her situation. She neither wanted to remarry to end her dependency nor did she urge to beg on roads and streets. Therefore, when one day her aunt went to visit her, she told Rabia about Zardozi and its services. Rabia without finishing her cup of tea, impatiently left the house with her aunt and enrolled herself in business and marketing trainings of Zardozi. After learning about running a business, Rabia came up with the idea of starting a laundry shop business. Zardozi too liked her idea for the laundry business serves a growing need of people to outsource their cleaning tasks because of a lack of time to do it themselves. Soon Rabia took loan from Zardozi and rented a shop. With that loan she could buy good washing machines and other necessary materials for her shop.

Before Rabia opens her shop, Zardozi conducted a survey in the area to ensure Rabia’s laundry business run efficiently. As a result, many people showed interest and most of the houses could afford going to a laundry room.

After opening the laundry shop, Rabia started to receive orders from a nearby dormitory from which she charged 50 per dress. The customers were satisfied with the prices and cleaning services; therefore, they continually brought clothes to the laundry room. As Rabia’s customers and demand for washing their clothes increased, she realized she needed more machineries to get many orders done in less time; that is why she needed more loan from Zardozi.

“The business keeps me very busy but also happy, because I don’t have to rely on anyone for money. I can provide all the opportunities for my children which used to be prepared by their father.” Said Rabia. She further added, “What makes me proud is that my laundry shop services not only facilitate my life but the entire neighborhood is benefited by it.”

Rabia hopes to pay back her first loan in four months and then take second loan from Zardozi to purchase more machineries. Observing a rapid success in her business, Rabia says that, “beside the laundry shop, I also wish to have an ironing business since my customers also asks for it especially students in the dormitories.”

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Educated Mothers are Healthy & Wealthy

Zardozi training department evaluates every month to find out what does its clients need beside trainings related to business. We have realized that many of our clients’ struggle with even the basic level of self-respect and self-worth. They are unaware of their rights and how well they deserve to be treated. Therefore, to help women build up themselves, to be healthy which will lead to efficient economic achievement for women, Zardozi conducts different kinds of trainings that include Gender equality training, human and women rights, how to recognize and tackle problems, how to set goals and work toward achieving them, as well as how to advocate for their rights and needs.

This time Operation Mercy Afghanistan in partnership with Zardozi, provided health and midwifery trainings in order to educate women on how to give first aid before reaching hospital, and to prevent certain diseases during pregnancy that can otherwise harm both the child and mother.

There is a relation between health awareness and economic growth. This means the need for this training is essential because in Afghanistan many women give birth at homes  rather than going to the clinic which is either due to lack of hospitals in the remote areas or the strict traditions of Afghan society. Men who are the primary decision makers at home, do not allow their women to be treated at hospitals, because they don’t want their women to be seen by male doctors. Therefore, since women do not have the knowledge of facilitating home birth, it leads to dangers and to more disease for the pregnant women; As result, the family comes under much financial burdens and crises as they have to spend more and more on medicines and

treatments. Therefore, in order to decrease the health risk and economic disadvantages, health trainings are fundamental to the empowerment of women to help raise their family’s standard of living.

“Informed women are smart women. They don’t get sick quickly and are more productive in the society.” said Dordana, one of Zardozi’s client. Next to Dordana, another client and participant of the training voiced, “If a person is sick, she will not be able to serve the community and earn; instead she will be a burden on the family.”

26 women took oral tests and successfully graduated from the first midwifery and birth skills training session. Despite the fact that these women could not read and write, they had learned a lot through pictures and illustrations. The training had positively influenced the women as they told their stories about how they saved lives at the neighborhood and transferred what they had learned to other women.

Marzia after passing the oral exam said that, “The training was a great learning experience. Now I know how to keep my children healthy and how often I have to vaccinate them in order to reduce the risk of sicknesses and medical expenditures.”

The midwifery training instructors from Mercy Operation Afghanistan thanked Zardozi for allowing the training to take place in Nisef-e-Jahan and in helping women have access to health awareness programs. MOA also gifted several informative books to the women so that they can benefit from it at the absence of the trainings. Zardozi clients asked for more health education to raise the standards of their lives and to positively influence society.


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Breshna a successful housewife and mother

In countries like Afghanistan, women are supposed to stay at home; to take care of her children; and to run by the strict rules of their families which suppress their freedom. However, 18 years old Breshna, after being empowered by Zardozi, took a very different look at her life.

Breshna was born in a big family where her father’s decisions were influenced by her aunts and uncles that lived with them. She was able to finish her school but unfortunately was not allowed to continue her education even though she had passed the university entry exam, Kankor. Breshna said that, “my aunt had told my father that it is shameful for a big girl to go out of home; the village people will dishonor us, it is time for her to get married.”

Breshna continued, “I became very depressed sitting at home while hearing of my school friends going to universities and living up to their dreams. After some months, I heard that some people from an organization are facilitating trainings in different sectors near our home. I was very happy and convinced my parents to let me learn tailoring.”

Breshna’s father registered her name at Zardozi but people never stopped slandering and questioning their family’s dignity for working in organization. Breshna faced this problem particularly because of working in organization. The word and place “organization” has unhappy connotation among conservative Afghans as they have the general perception of women should not be working at offices especially when they know the organizations consists of both men and women working together. Therefore, Zardozi have built business centers in homes which makes it easy for women like Breshna to access advice and technical support as it is both near to their homes and there are fewer cultural hurdles involved in visiting a family home instead of an office.

Breshna who is now a mother of two children said that not only the society was against her work but her in laws too. She said, “My in laws complained I am a bad mother leaving my children and home alone, but Zardozi taught me what is best for me.” She continued with a smile, “Now through my earnings, I am preparing the best opportunities for my children.

I pay their tuition fees; make sure their school supplies are complete and I confirm that they are not disappointed if their clothes are not good than others. I want my children to be healthy and for that I and my husband earn enough to arrange better food.” Zardozi observed that after Breshna’s success, her mother in law also gradually started to support her.

Breshna’s perspective on life did not only change due to the tailoring and business trainings she received but the gender equality, civil society, vision, human & women rights workshops which enhanced her understanding of life.

Breshna tells us that, “women have realized that the trend of being a housewife is now changing with the change and need of the time. The prices are going up in bazar and my husband alone cannot meet all the needs of the family, therefore I have to support my husband financially.

When we asked how she has proven to be successful in managing both home tasks and work, she answered, “I feel very strong and active when I balance both work and home. After I prepare my kids in the morning, my husband rides them to kindergarten as well as brings them back home. Until I am away, my mother in-law takes care of my children. It is not just that, my spouse help me with household chores too. He is like a best friend and all families can similarly balance out their lives if there is a friendly and understanding environment between husband and wife.”

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Shakila’s Beauty Salon Dream Came True

As a child, Shakila, age 20, always wanted her own hair and makeup salon, dreaming to be her own boss. Shakila’s dreams were shattered by her father and the conservative norms of society, going against Islamic culture. Her father left the country in search of employment. She saw this as an opportunity to secretly learn the tricks of the beauty trade. She snuck into beauty parlors, eager to learn whatever she could. Unfortunately, her father found out and she was banned from trying to pursue her dreams. It wasn’t until her father’s death that she was able to reach out to Zardozi for assistance.  With assistance from the foundation she took essential courses on beauty skills and familiarized herself with using a computer in order to teach herself by watching tutorials. Her self motivation impressed Zardozi and the organization approved her for a loan in order for her to have an in home beauty salon.

Shakila’s problems did not end with her father’s death.  With her father gone, her brother now stepped in with his views. Afraid that he would forbid her from moving forward, she turned to Zardozi for help. Knowing that in the past, education was key to gaining family support, the foundation invited her brother to a ceremony celebrating successful women. Shakila said, “I was surprised when my brother’s attitude shifted completely after watching other women’s success. He even told me to teach his wife some of the skills so that she can also work in the beauty parlor.”

Zardozi is known for establishing proper training and financial assistance to their clients, but they also educate women on how to run their business in a competitive environment. Shakila mentioned her concerns regarding several other beauty parlors around her neighborhood. Although the competition may be tough, Shakila’s attitude resonates strongly. “I love competition. If you don’t have any competition, you won’t have any challenges, because challenges helps you change and grow.”

She credits her confidence to Zardozi’s professional trainers. “People appreciate my work and my work ethic. With Zardozi’s help, I have earned respect in my community. Women trust me with their appearance, even willing to pay a little more for a job well done.

Shakila’s eyes glittered with pride when she said that she feels empowered when her brother asks her for money. She also said she does not rely for money from her brother; instead she buys what she desires on her own.

The glee was written all over her face because her dream had come true with Zardozi.

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Kabul Exhibition

Zardozi held its most successful exhibition in Shahrak-e-Aria Kabul, in collaboration with its partner, Women for Women International. The exhibition took place in a secure and safe environment where clients sold and promoted their products. It was incredible to see clients’ brothers and husbands, standing beside their women and helping them to sell their goods and interact with customers. BiBi Shirin came from Kapisa to showcase her products. Her husband would not allow her to travel alone to Kabul, so she convinced him to travel with her. “When my husband saw the increasing number of visitors buying my materials as well as high profit margins in one day, he was ashamed for trying to prevent me from coming. Now he encourages me to continue my work.” Zardozi aims to arrange more of these exhibitions, not only so these women can expand their businesses and promote their products, but more importantly to use such opportunities as means of changing strict and conservative mentalities of their male family members.