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Kadars participated in the 5th Afghan Women International Symposium

The Afghan Women international symposium under the title of “Women as responsible citizens,” with the slogan of “Responsible Citizen, Dependable Government, and Thriving society” was held on 7-9th May. Among the guests were President Ashraf Ghani, First Lady Rula Ghani, State authorities along with 350 women from Kabul and provinces and international community members in the Presidential Palace. Afghan women symposiums, which were previously held in Washington DC, Oslo and Norway, are now organized inside Afghanistan where the voices of hundreds of women marginalized by war and oppression are heard.

Zardozi Kadars were also given the opportunity to be part of the conference and to join the panel discussions to discuss the importance of women’s role in building societies and to speak about the achievements they have gained as responsible citizens of their communities. The Kadars were acknowledged and warmly appreciated by the First Lady. She recognized the impact being made by these women coming together as a community, regardless of status or education level. A significant difference has been made by these women by cleaning the city, building schools, clinics and roads and providing drinking water to the people.

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Meet the first group start up

Ommulbanin, Zarguna, Bibi Mah, Fatima and Masuma are the first five women who were suggested to start a business as a group. This idea of group start-ups was discussed in the Annual Strategic Workshop at Zardozi’s main office. The organization observed that some women were unable to smoothly run their businesses, due to many home responsibilities and family problems. For women like Zarguna, Fatima and Masooma, running a business by themselves meant leaning toward failure and waste of resources and time. The five women partnered to begin their startup under the guidance and advisory of Zardozi Kadars, ECMS and trainers. They decided to work in as a team and make kitchen decoration handcraft sets for customers. By dividing tasks and covering for each other when one person was not available, the group was able to reach completion of goals as a team.

Bibi Mah says that the need for a group start-up was a great idea. Shopkeepers were not happy about the quality and quantity of her products due to her inability to focus solely on production. She says that the root cause is the large number of responsibilities and problems at home that did not allow her to dedicate much time to her business. Because of this, some of the shopkeepers canceled contracts with her. “Thereof, Zardozi advised me to join with a group of four more women who had similar problem. This is effective, because I didn’t have to begin from the scratch and reinvest,” added Bibi Mah.

The group began by signing an agreement letter that allowed them 1,000 AFS seed money to start their new business. At the beginning, the group received intense training about good team work, leadership, accounting and management. Soon they presented their first sample of handcraft for kitchen decoration to one of Mazar Sharif’s prominent market.

With this added training, the women became very marketable. The group was successful and took several orders from other shopkeepers and continued to run their business efficiently. The group found more customers and consumers when they attended Zardozi exhibitions and put their products into display.

Ommulbanin says that, “During this period of time we signed big contracts of 100-300 pairs of kitchen sets which I could have never managed and handled on my own. The group work is having fruitful results; we earn more than what we expect,” exclaimed Ommulbanin.

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Nisfe Jahan’s volunteer members’ engagement in civic activities

As the international community aid decreases in Afghanistan, the establishment of the Nisfe Jahan Association becomes a leading example of self-sustainability and self-reliance for other local organizations operating across Afghanistan. This institution manages and receives income through member association payments and service fees that help represent the presence of female entrepreneurs and small businesses. This includes providing business services, capacity building, and economic growth for businesswomen. The members of Nisfe Jahan are women who work as volunteers to build their communities and support the women in need. President Asharaf Ghani recognized these goals and offered up encouragement during the NGOs national conference.

In 2015, Nisfe Jahan’s income (average of all regions) from member fees was on target, representing 10% of the association’s expenditure and putting it on track for becoming increasingly cost effective in its operations. This percentage is not enough to support the bigger goals of the organization, creating a reliance on foreign aid. However, the member fees are enough to prevent Zardozi and Nisfe Jahan from closing its doors if the international funding ceased.

Today, Zardozi and Nisfe Jahan women provide business services through community business centers as well as actively engage in civic activities and empower more women to speak up about the problems in their districts.

Zardozi Kadars are responsible citizens that make a difference in society, helping to identify problems with members of the community, focusing particularly on women. These problems are mainly raised by women who are concerned about their society. They face challenges like lack of knowledge and direction on how to solve problems and which government entities to refer to, what processes to follow once they go to the relevant office. Kadars are the main voice of many women in villages, who without external support and guidance would not have been able to engage in their communities as men would.

Saleema Yaqoubi is one of the volunteer members of Nisfe Jahan. She says that, “The majority of the women in the villages are uneducated and less confident. These women do not have the courage to come out and fix the problems in society; we stand by them and guide them about how to be responsible citizens and what steps to take.” 

When we asked the volunteer members about the process of problem solving in village, Ms. Kubra explained, “First of all, we identify the problems in the society in coordination with the villagers. Second, we talk with the community leaders including the Islamic scholars who have a bigger influence to support our cause. When the community leaders confirm, a complaint letter is written and taken to the relevant office on a district level where our problem will be heard. Sometimes our complaint is not taken seriously in the lower level and we have to refer to higher authorities where the job is done faster especially when they realize women have raised their voice. The positive discrimination is most of the times in our advantage.”

Women make up half of the population and are the strong ‘rock’ foundation of a nation. This is why if the foundation is weak and paralyzed half of the nation is paralyzed. This is where their involvement in civic activities is substantial to the growth of a country.

The following achievements have been accomplished with the responsible citizens of Kabul. The Kadars worked together with the villagers for these incredible milestones.

  • Provided urban transportation for the Quran Zyart area in the 13th District of Kabul.
  • Collection of waste from Chahar Qala e Wazir Abad, Kabul.
  • Asphalt of road along with canal construction in Qadir Abad, Herat.
  • School construction for boys and girls who used to study under tents in Sai Palak area of Herat.
  • Provided drinking water for the people of Noabad region of Mola Abdullah area who did not have water for 5 months.
  • Provided literacy classes for women in the Aliabad area of Mazar-e-Sharif.
  • Coordinated with the Department of Public Health for the construction of Clinic in Faqir Abad, Mazar-e-Sharif.
  • Facilitated litigation training for the majority of areas in Nangarhar as well as collection of waste from areas of Afghan Mena and Dronta.

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Zardozi support group consultancy

One balmy morning, a breeze drifts in from the windows of a small house on the hill top where several women have gathered together, sitting in a circle with their eyes closed, meditating and repeating the mantras over and over: “May my heart be kind, my mind fierce and my spirit brave. Create a life you can be proud of.” “I am free from violence.”

Conducted in partnership with PARSA (Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Support for Afghanistan), this is Zardozi’s support and counseling groups initial warm up phase of training. This happens on a bi-weekly Manbeh day where Zardozi clients meet to get out of isolation, openly discuss their problems and find solutions.

Being unrecognized, deprived of an emotional support and suppressed by violence, these counseling groups, also called “Healthy Afghan Women Support Groups,” have facilitated an atmosphere where women find hope, confidence and a helping hand to move forward.

It has been two years that PARSA has been providing these services to the less advantaged women that participate in the Zardozi Community Business Trainers. Yalda Azimi, one of Zardozi’s program team member says, “The first year of carrying out these sessions was difficult and we had to stop our work for some time, mainly due to the reason that women were not familiar with this new idea of support groups and talking openly about their most secret issues in a group of 10-20 women.”

Marnie Gustavson, the Executive Director and initiator of “Healthy Afghan Women Support Groups” in PARSA writes a blog about her experience: “In my experience, announcing a program as a psychosocial one can be the “kiss of death” for women’s support groups in Afghanistan – unless there is a heavy stipend offered for attending. Even though I had oriented them to our work a couple weeks back and assured all attending that this was not a program for crazy people, my attendees were very nervous about working with me.” Despite all that, the Zardozi team has been able to run this training smoothly with many women getting used to the idea, feeling more at ease and asking for more consultancy trainings.

Masoma says, “I feel comfortable and less isolated as I talk with other women here. Some of them have even bigger problems than me.”

During the same meeting, Laila shared with the group that her husband is taking another wife due to her inability to provide a son. Her mother in law has been urging her husband to find a new wife, leaving Laila at a loss for action or words.

As the conversation continues, more women speak about the problems they encounter, allowing the women to open up about the reasons behind them joining the support group. Zardozi provides an atmosphere of trust to the women who desperately look for help and advice.

The PARSA and Zardozi trainers say that this is not the only objective. They want to give the women a platform where they can feel better by talking but also to have an idea of solving those problems and moving forward in their lives. Hopefully these women will have enough confidence to create support groups for others to reach out to a larger amount of women facing daily violence and provide support.


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Frozan incorporating several things in one shop

Out in an unconstructed part of Qala-e-Zaman Khan, Kabul, 22 year old Frozan’s shop is a noticeable place. Its walls spray painted with graffiti with handmade bags hanging from strings. She joined Zardozi in 2015 and today we are acknowledging her achievements and success since she first began.

Frozan comes with an advantage of being born in an open minded, but not so financially fortunate family. Her father allowed her to complete school and supported her in achieving her goals and objectives even though her family had financial difficulties. The financial difficulties forced Frozan to work instead of continuing her higher education. Frozan says, “I am very happy I have a good father. If it was someone else, they would have given me into marriage as an asset for earning some money which is a usual practice in Afghanistan.”

Ms. Frozan came to Zardozi already having some tailoring skills and owning her own shop which lasted for three months. At Zardozi, Frozan’s trainers discovered that her shop was short lived due to lack of modern tailoring, hand craft skills. In addition, she also did not have the general management and accounting skills needed for a long term business

After receiving a loan from Zardozi as well as valuable training, Frozan re-opened her shop to both teach and make handicrafts, clothes and stitch bags.

During this period, Frozan partnered with two girls and two boys who came with a different skill set: calligraphy, painting and drawing. Learning this art from her partners, Frozan could also teach these skills to students in the neighborhood. Since Frozanisan educated girl, Zardozi trainers suggested that she learn computing skills and graphics. With her newfound computer skills, Frozan joined her partners in repairing mobiles, designs and Photoshop pictures, as well as sell songs to people. “There is good money in incorporating several things all in one shop which is also beneficial for the community to learn different skills,” she explains.

Frozan says, “When I needed money for working on a new business idea, Zardozi gave me a loan, half of which I spent on buying a Laptop in order to manage my work and finances on my computer.” She says, “A trainer from Zardozi taught me how to use the internet and suggested to me several websites where I can easily access and learn about new clothing designs and find products that are in high demand in the market.”

Frozan says start-ups are not easy. “One has to invest a lot of energy and allocate a lot of time to it. Thanks to Zardozi for the seed money! Being too focused on running my business has prevented me from allowing time to study, but by the time I have enough money I will use it to support my education in the future. My dreams are not limited to this shop!”

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Aziza – Nisfe Jahan’s Chairperson

Aziza from Mazar Sharif is the current chairperson of Nisfe Jahan. Getting this position was a dream job for her when she first joined Zardozi. Aziza is a professional tailor and wise business woman who knows how to manage to be both Nisfe Jahan’s chairperson and run her own business at same time. Aziza’s progress has inspired many Zardozi clients to strive for top positions and have a prosperous life. Aziza tells us about her life, her failures and successes. Like other women in Afghanistan, a life of misery brought her to Zardozi’s doorstep. Aziza came with hopes of changing her life.

When she joined Zardozi, she was able to learn about tailoring through her trainers whom she describes to be patient and kind while training her. After a year and half, Aziza opened a tailoring workshop in her village. Another woman in Aziza’s village also started a tailoring shop, but had the upper hand, purchasing three manual tailoring machines and hiring six other women. When Aziza realized that her business was facing failure due to few orders in a small, poor and less industrialized community, she decided to move to Mazar Sharif’s capital city where she could find good costumers. After she moved, she received many orders for school uniforms and several other orders from companies. She was introduced to more shops and markets by the help of Zardozi. Aziza also started to attend exhibitions which expanded her networks and reputation.

Seeing a rapid success in her business, Aziza balanced running a tailoring workshop at home, as well as renting a shop in Zulal market. She started getting orders for party and wedding dresses. There are always ups and downs in the business arena, and Aziza came face to face with some challenges that forced her to take her business to the next level.  Unable to meet modern day demands for clothes choice and designing, Aziza partnered with a well-known and more experienced male tailor. She also added more advanced tailoring machines and equipment in the shop.

Aziza says that she is proud of herself. Her family appreciates her problem solving skills along with the strong commitment she has to her work.

She also says that even though she has joined up with a male partner who has more experience, she does not undermine her current skills. Each person brings their skills to the business, each learning from the other. We interviewed Saleem, one of the shopkeepers who has put in a clothing order with Aziza . He says, “Aziza is a respectful woman; her products are high quality and meeting today’s youngsters demands. That is why most of the shopkeepers come to her for clothes designs.”

Aziza says, “It is difficult running a business sometimes and one should be ready for the challenges and risks.

I have learned a lot through the process and Zardozi has made me capable of solving problems through its management, leadership, and communication trainings.”

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Zardozi Celebrates Women’s Day

“Stand up, stand out, stand together!” From the early 1900’s until now, the international women’s movement has gained momentum. Thousands of women in unison, including the recent watershed movements of “Me Too” and “Man Etiraz Darum (I Object)” in Afghanistan, these women stood together to fight against the unjust and social constructed norms. They have broken their silence about violence, sexual harassments and inequalities. Every day is said to be women’s day, but March 8th is the day to honor all the women who have inspired, worked hard, and survived through everyday violence.

On the 8th of March, Zardozi Kabul main office as well as regional offices celebrated women’s day by acknowledging the hard work of its female staff and clients who have made the courage to come out, be recognized, and liberate themselves from suppression. The women’s day not only marked the value of women but reminded them that rights are not given but taken. Their fight is essential and will continue, being a mentor for other women as they take a stand for their rights. They will never be forgotten.

Executive Director, Homa Usmany, acknowledged the vital role of women in society and family and emphasized to the women, “Don’t wait for the next March! Remind yourselves every day, and every hour that you do a lot and you are the core contributor to the success of your families. Have the courage to break the cage. The month of March is an opportunity to honor our existence and appreciate ourselves. It is the day to remember all of the unsung heroines: the mothers, the sisters, and the wives.”

Following Homa Usmany’s speech, Zardozi Kabul Regional Office Manager, Engineer Atta Muhammad also expressed his gratitude to the blissful existence of women and said, “It is not only women’s day but also men’s day, because all men should be standing in support of women and recognizing their role in family, society and offices.”

Zardozi Jalalabad Regional Office celebrated this special day together with Nangarhar Women Affairs Directorate, Governor House, along with other NGOs working for women. This also includes its female employees and Kadars in its regional office. Zardozi Nangarhar clients acknowledged women’s day by showcasing their products and selling homemade and pickled food for the program guests. This was much appreciated by the Nangarhar governor and other participants of the event. The governor of Nangarhar said that women’s work has been invisible and not recognized. He stated that women make great contributions to the economy of Afghanistan, especially with presenting Afghan products to markets.

Zardozi’s staff, including male colleagues, is fortunate to serve all these wonderful women and celebrate their existence. Zardozi’s staff in Afghanistan works day and night so that women can be economically independent and put a full stop to poverty which have led many families to violence.

This was much appreciated by the Nangarhar governor and other participants of the event. The governor of Nangarhar said that women’s work has been invisible and not recognized. He stated that women make great contributions to the economy of Afghanistan, especially with presenting Afghan products to markets.

Zardozi’s staff, including male colleagues, is fortunate to serve all these wonderful women and celebrate their existence. Zardozi’s staff works day and night so that women can be economically independent and put a full stop to poverty which have led many families to violence.


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Best employee award

Zardozi pays great tribute toward its hard-working employees without whom the organization would not be able to extend its services to poor Afghan women in the farthest villages across the country. On 10 January 2017, Zardozi celebrated and recognized Mr. Nariman Yousufi’s services and commitment to Zardozi as an Admin Accountant in Zardozi’s Mazar Regional Office. Mr. Nariman has been working with Zardozi for more than two years now, and has proved to be an excellent team player, hard worker and an efficient problem solver. He has not only limited his tasks to his scope of work only but has also helped and worked as a team with different departments’ employees.

Mr. Yousufi says that the organization is his second home and he will not turn away from whatever it takes to support the great cause and objective of Zardozi.

We admire and thank Nariman Yousufi and we wish him continuous success in his work and future endeavors. Zardozi is also grateful to all its dedicated employees who have been working for more than 10 years and continue to perform their social responsibilities while standing firm during the financial crisis of Zardozi – a time when the organization could not pay for some of its employees and had to terminate their employment. Zardozi is a strong family, flourishing every day.

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Zahra’s mission to change her fate

Like many poor families 27-year-old Zahra belonged to a family where her dream of seeking an education was shattered due to the bad economic situation. Zahra was involved in child labor when she was 9 years old. When asked about her childhood, Zahra had to travel back into her memories again and tell us about the bitter days, while drying her tears with the long red scarf wrapped around her.

When she was a child, Zahra had to take care of her sick mother by carrying the burden of heavy work in a factory, where she could barely earn enough for a meal. She said, “I had dreams of living a prosperous life like other people, but poverty was taking me to a darker future. Life was not easy at the factory, especially for a girl. I was harassed and still have back pains from carrying heavy things” continued Zahra.

For Zahra, life didn’t take a different direction even after marriage. Her husband was a home servant whose earnings did not cover their expenses. As she reached the end of her story Zahra said with a slight smile on her face says that God finally heard her voice when she found out about the Zardozi Manbeh in the area. Zahra has now been a client of Zardozi for 3 years. Zahra’s trainers say that they saw special capabilities in Zahra and all they had to do was explore them. After attending a variety of training sessions Zahra decided to open a dairy farming business which was both difficult and exciting. Zahra was finally becoming an important person and ready to run her own business.

Zardozi supported Zahra with loans with which she bought cows. Since she still lacked proper knowledge about raising cattle for milk production, she thanked her husband for helping her a lot to maintain a steady supply of milk.

“I am very happy that my children do not have to bear a similar ugly childhood like mine. It is their time to play and study, and all my efforts are to ensure a better life for them. I want them to become good doctors and engineers,” said Zahra with hopeful eyes.

Zahra concluded, “Zardozi helped me to gain professional skills in managing my business. I learned from other women and Kadars in the Manbeh and use those skills to improve my own business.”

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ECM- Strategic Workshop

Every year Zardozi’s Kabul Main office holds a Strategic Workshop that includes Zardozi Regional Managers, Kadars and Executive Committee Members (ECMs) from the regions to gather on one platform 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: formulating and monitoring specific strategies to achieve them, while supporting many women in the upcoming years. In addition, a series of essential on-the-job training sessions such as human and women rights, leadership, management, budgeting and effective communication skills are also conducted by the professional trainers at the Zardozi Kabul Main Office. This time, the Strategic workshop was held from 20th to 25th January, during which the Kabul Main Office Program team, together with Kadars, ECMs and regional managers discussed important topics, including: maintaining Nisfe Jahan’s sustainability; strengthening Community Business Centers (Manbeh); managing Kadars contract with Zardozi; loan trainings; report writing; and discussing the problems which Kadars had encountered during the previous year.

The Zardozi team spent 5 days of workshops preparing for a productive year that was going to change many lives for the better. At the end of the intense workshops, Zardozi appreciated and celebrated successful Kadars and ECM’s, who are the mending the bridge between Zardozi and Nisfe Jahan in implementing its programs. Mr. Husain Ali Mohen, from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, who had also joined us at the event, acknowledged the organization’s services and praised the courage of the Kadars and ECMs, for stepping outside of their homes to tackle the economic problems facing Afghan women.

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

Seeking to understand her responsibilities better, Ms. Hamida, who is the representative of Zardozi’s clients in Herat, said “we are not in a position to understand everything on our own, therefore we need guidance and this workshop is an empowering platform to learn about making effective decisions and to build our capacity to serve our Afghan sisters better.”