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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.”

 


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Gender Training- Removing Barriers

On 25 January some of Zardozi’s staff members and vocational trainers gathered at a table to plan its next program, not free of troubles. Everyone was struck by the one question: how to bring both men and women into one room to be trained on gender issues.  Such a gathering had never been organized before and the upcoming challenges were striking the team. Zardozi’s team was not only concerned about this being a joint gathering of men and women, but also about the location of the training. As some women may be prevented from attending an office or training centre Zardozi located the training in a local house, instead of in its Manbeh (Community Business Center). The Zardozi team was working towards helping poor Afghan women in the urban and rural areas to enable them to earn an income for themselves and their families.

The initial step is to attract and educate as many men as possible because, “International development actors are now realizing that if you don’t change men’s attitudes towards women, then gender programs which focus on women first won’t be successful, and in many cases can bring about increased dangers to women,” said Christina Fink, director of international development studies at George Washington University.

As the team ensures the overall implementing plan of the gender training, we move toward our destination. A Zardozi staff member repeats the training materials with the Kadars, who were Zardozi clients for almost 10 years before securing the position of Kadar. One of the reasons why Zardozi choose Kadars to give the training is to focus on demonstrating their success and higher positions to other women in the session, to inspire and motivate them to reach their goals as confidently as the Kadars did.

Although the Kadars are nervous about their big day, they are ready to give it their best shot and arrive at a big room of a mosque in Kala e Khater where the men, community leaders, Mullah and Zardozi clients have gathered. The gathering starts well, with men and women sitting facing each other and being introduced. They cover several topics followed by group workshops, discussing the roles and responsibilities of men and women, recognizing the importance of both gender’s roles and the disadvantages of gender inequality.

The room is filled with the men and women nodding their heads in agreement, realizing that these topics were of great importance. During the training, the Mullah also spoke about the prominent women in Islam including Bibi Khadija (a prosperous business woman) and Fatima (ع) who had joined in the struggle in defense of the noble mission of her father, Prophet Muhammad. The Mullah appreciated Zardoz’s work and promoted the equal rights of

women and men in Islam. In a religious country like Afghanistan, where a father complies with the verdict of his village’s mullahs and publicly executes his daughter, religious scholars are very influential in local society. Therefore, to be successful in its vision, Zardozi needs the support of open-minded men, particularly the Mullahs, to support its’ programs.

Shafiq, a participant of the training, said that the group activity helped him in thinking thoroughly about why the role of women is valuable. “I didn’t like my sister going to the Manbeh, because I was influenced by the ideology of my friends who consider it shameful for women to go outside of the home, but the training forced me to think carefully about things that I had never bothered myself about.”

In family life women are not appreciated for their home chores as men are for their work but Salma and her husband Ali, after writing about each other’s chores and timing those chores in a group work were surprised by the outcome. Ali said he realized that his wife works more hours than him and her efforts are worth as much appreciation as his own but he had always failed to recognize them.

The Zardozi team gender training to men and women ran successfully, yet it should be noted that some participants were disapproving and critical and left. Despite this the team did not give up on the rest of the participants who showed support and warmly welcomed it. Spreading awareness about significant matters like gender equality is Zardozi’s top priority to change perspectives and pave the way for its programs to run smoothly.  Nothing is free of challenges in Afghanistan!


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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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