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Zardozi visits its sisters in Indonesia

In order to effectively serve Afghan women as well as achieve excellence in its programs, Zardozi made a third trip to Indonesia to revisit its sisters from PEKKA, a women’s empowerment organization in Indonesia. The trip was mainly arranged for learning purposes between Zardozi Kadars (Volunteer Members) and PEKKA.

In 2016, representatives of PEKKA came to Kabul after Zardozi got introduced to them in 2015 for a knowledge exchange. This year, in April 2019, Zardozi’s leadership team together with two Kadars had another opportunity to observe in-person the approaches PEKKA uses to address women’s problems in their communities. In fact, this exchange program is a useful initiative in achieving Zardozi’s objective to gradually empower Kadars by enabling them to make their own decisions and plan and implement Zardozi’s programs at the grassroots level.

PEKKA is recognized as one of the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF) and the World Bank’s best projects. It serves over 25,000 women ‘heads of household’ in more than 800 villages across Indonesia. PEKKA has been active in providing women various programs related to such issues as education, health, and access to justice, livelihood and women’s leadership in the community. The exchange program is a good learning experience for the two organizations as both shares a common ground: empowering disadvantaged women to support themselves financially.

In particular, the trip was a personal achievement for Zardozi volunteer members, the Kadars who are representatives of women in the community. “Who was I and where am I now?” said Ms. Kubra when she returned more committed to help the women of her community. She explained, “When I first began to work, I didn’t have the courage to get out of my home, but today I was not only out of my home but somewhere out of the country in a completely different world.” That was the kind of empowerment Ms. Kubra wants to attain for women in her village.

The takeaway of Salima, another of Zardozi’s Kadars, was that Indonesian and Afghan women encounter similar problems. During her stay, she heard about how a young girl was going to be given into marriage to an older man, but luckily the wedding was stopped by PEKKA’s Kadars, she acknowledged.

“Women over there work very hard and are very inspirational,” shared Salima. She also noted that Indonesian women were less restricted by men in terms of going out of the home, which she thought was a great advantage that a majority of Afghan women don’t have. This has been one of the biggest obstacles for Afghan women to get over.

Talking about lessons learned, Salima noted, “What made PEKKA different was that they had a separate group of Kadars for legal matters called Legal Kadars. We can integrate this into our programs because this group of Kadars was more professional, well-learned and effective in solving legal matters (e.g. divorce) and engaging with government.”

Also, Zardozi regional manager, Ms. Nasreen Sahibzada was fascinated by the hard work and determination of women in Indonesia. The women gave a high percentage of their own savings as loans funds. “This is a very good approach for the self-sustainability of Kadars and clients. PEKKA now has 35,000 women enrolled in the savings groups, and without PEKKA’s or other foreign support, these women will always have their savings to receive loans.”

This knowledge exchange program has not only benefited Zardozi but also PEKKA when they visited Kabul and learned about the different strategies Zardozi used to outreach to women and their families..

On their trip to Kabul, PEKKA representatives were intrigued by Zardozi’s attempts to reach out to and connect with the family members of their clients, through events that celebrate successful women. “Such events appreciate not only women, but also their family members—especially supportive husbands—and this is a very strategic, smart approach in a context where women have lots of restrictions,” said PEKKA’s manager of institutional development Kodar Tri Wusananingsih about celebrating successful women events.

“It helps set a good example for families of other women,” added Wusananingsih.

At the end, the two organizations agreed on a long term commitment and more information sharing sessions in the future.

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From a Door-less House to Eqlima’s Own Little House

Once lived a comfortable and luxurious life, Eqlima’s struggles and hardships start from windowless rooms and a door-less house. This is the story of a mother of 2 children whose husband fell sick from major injuries resulting into damaging his nervous system. Eqlima’s husband was the only provider for the family which did not last longer.

Several years ago, Eqlima took her sick husband to Pakistan in hope of curing his illness. Most of their savings were drained in his treatments and medicine but wasted without any big results. His injuries bled Eqlima’s heart as day by day they lacked the capacity to afford appropriate amount of food and clothes to wear.

“Rents went overdue. We had to evacuate the house in less than five days. My father in-law gave us an old house which did not

have windows and doors. Most nights I had to stay awake to protect my children from any possible threat,” sobbed Eqlima as she recalled this.

Eqlima’s family advised her to divorce her husband and remarry for the betterment of her and her one year old baby’s life. But she had realized one thing and that was if she could help herself that would be through working for herself so that she never has to beg to be saved. She wanted to be capable enough to stand firm against all the problems on her own because incidents such as her husband’s are inevitable.

Eqlima did not leave her husband; instead she worked on her skills of Khamak Dozi and tailoring which she had picked up from her mother. But the amount of money she could earn did not suffice for meeting all of the needs of her children and sick husband. Her in-laws had also stopped supporting her.

Sometime later, Eqlima’s neighbours informed her about Zardozi’s services but her in-laws family did not like the idea of her going to an NGO because all of the traditional families see it led by foreigners who are not Muslims and are dominated with men.

Eqlima attended business, marketing and communications training anyway. She didn’t listen to what her family was saying, because she was not dependent on them. Her hard work was slowly paying off. After some time, she became service provider to her Manbe (Community Business Centre) and began to train other women which further enhanced her skills and encouraged her to attract more customers. She earned enough to repair and furnish her house. “These rooms, kitchens and bathrooms you see is the fruitful result of my work, nobody else did it for me,” said with pride Eqlima.

She added,” I remember when I started with 300-500 AFS but now my income is around 15,000 – 20,000 Afghanis per month. My children are in a good school, my husband is getting better, and I can buy every necessary thing for my house. I also bought myself some nice jewellery.” Eqlima says that her story even inspired her sister-in law who was against her work. Now she goes to Manbeh every week and I help her with her tailoring skills. I am very grateful to Zardozi. It directed me to the right path.”

Eqlima is not the only woman who comes with difficulties as such. There are more like her but what we can do is to give them the feeling that they are not alone in this fight and with some motivation and guidance they can find their way out.

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Nadira is Not Giving Up

Somewhere in a small village of Mazar-e-Sharif, a big sign board outside a not very big shop covered with glamorous pictures of women having had their hair, makeup and nails nicely done, beats much of the negative stereotypes held against beauty parlours like Ms. Nadira.

Nadira is one of Zardozi’s oldest clients. She started receiving business trainings in different sectors in 2015. But her love for makeup, making sophisticated hairstyles and doing Heena motivated her to take more lessons in this area. She saved her money to complete her only one wish- opening a big beauty salon facilitated with a lot of tools and equipments. After saving money through tailoring and loan from Zardozi, she was finally able to open her village’s first salon this year in March.

But Nadira’s initiative created some sort of concerns among the male dominated community. She was confronted by a lot of men asking her father to close her shop, because it was against the Afghan tradition and their values. However, the women were happy because now they could fix their make-up by a professional and look more beautiful when attending parties or getting done their weekly eyebrows and hands waxing.

“Very few women were coming to the parlour in the first two months, “said Nadira. “I couldn’t make a lot out of it which was disappointing. I had waited my whole life for this dream to come true but I also couldn’t give up this early.”

Although Nadira’s first two months were filled with distress and frustration, few weeks later she saw that more women felt the need to go to her place but due to family restrictions they couldn’t. Hamida who lives near to Nadira’s house says that she secretly went out to cut her hair at Arayeshgah Zebaye Jahan- the name of Nadira’s salon. “It takes time until people get used to accepting new things,” said Hamida. Currently, her income is greater than before but not as much as what Nadira expects it to be.

Nadira keeps trying until she makes it since there is always hope for progress she believes.

What’s interesting is that unlike many other girls who get married in their teenage years; 26-years-old Nadira is still undecided about marriage and having kids. “I want to have a good future for myself. People say nobody will marry me because a woman’s beauty goes away with age, but I don’t listen to them. I want to work hard and become independent first,” explained Nadira why she was not thinking about getting married yet. Today, Nadira is living her one and only dream. Her strong motivation keeps her going.



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Finding Market for Wool Spinners

Recently, a high demand for wool spinning has been realized in the domestic markets. Zardozi surveys have found out that many women have shown interest in the wool spinning sector in Qala-i-Fatu of Kabul.

Ms. Masouma who has been tailoring for several months says “wool spinning is more fun plus it is always good to look for alternative ways of earning and this has turned out to be more profitable.”

Ten of Zardozi clients who have already began their work in this area have however found it difficult to have a wider access to national markets for their services. In a Manbeh meeting, Zardozi Kadars made their voice and request heard so that Kabul Main Office can help them find markets for their production.

The Kadars including Ms. Durdana who herself supplemented her income by spinning wool for three years, together with Zardozi market development officers met with Uddin Wardak Wool Washing and Carpet Weaving Company to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Uddin Wardak Company has been active in several provinces of Afghanistan where it has its branches mainly working with women. The company processes wool washing through machineries and distributes it to the wool spinners in Kabul and other provinces. Many women who cannot travel outside their homes are provided with transportation or are delivered wool to be washed in homes and collected back.

The owner of the company Mr. Mateen was delighted to meet with the women interested in this job and asked them to pay a close visit from the company after which they could start their work. The wool spinners from Naw-Abad Qala-i-Fatu also accepted the terms and conditions of the company to take orders. Following the agreement, Uddin Wardak Company delivered nine clients of Zardozi 60kg wool as a test for spinning.

Gul Chaman who has been spinning wool for months now says that her and her colleagues work impressed and satisfied the company’s needs. She is happy for getting employed as she will be now able to pay her tuition and studies fees.

Currently all nine of the clients work for the Uddin Wardak Wool Spinning Company while Zardozi’s Kabul Manbeh (Community Business Centre) has 21 more active clients working in this sector which generates a moderate amount of revenue for them and their families.


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Afghan Women Online Exhibition

From the beginnings of Zardozi, physical exhibitions have been one of the effective ways in holding women’s micro businesses strong. These exhibitions have provided women with the opportunity to achieve their marketing objectives to find good suppliers and customers.

Now Zardozi has taken a newer step in developing women’s businesses as our clients’ businesses will run more efficiently in a technologically advanced environment.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, in partnership with a private entity, has initiated the first Women Online Exhibition. This has enabled Zardozi to display many of its clients’ products online and expand the range of its visitors. “The online exhibition will open the door for attracting more people on international level which will also increase the value of Afghan handcrafts,” says Ms. Farida- Zardozi business trainer.

Although the women we work with have little or no knowledge about online exhibitions, Zardozi trainers facilitates information sessions for these women to have a larger access to alternative ways of doing business.

“The good thing about this exhibition is that now women who do not have permission to go out on daily basis or to attend our physical exhibitions, can have their products posted on this website. They will make easy money from home,” says Yalda Azimi- Zardozi’s Market Development Manager.

Zardozi Program Director, Ms. Hasina Aimaq emphasized the significance of online exhibitions, “This is a great platform for advertisement of the products as well. Many women who do not have the financial ability to promote their products, finds this to be the only chance to thrive.”

We acknowledge that the presence of women and her contribution to the economy of the country is vital.

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Hear from Zardozi Program Director

Zardozi’s most inspiring and young employee is 28 years old Hasina Aimaq Mohsen who comes with a strong background of dedicating her life to help women have their own voice and respect in family and community. Ms. Hasina joined Zardozi seven years ago. Today she serves as the Program Director of the organization. With six years of experience in leadership and management while doing her Master’s in Business Administration, Ms. Aimaq never thought of leaving her country women behind. She strongly believed in the potential of Afghan women and that with some investment in their skills and capacity, she could be a great contributor to her society in order to bring a positive change.

Ms. Hasina trusts that women are the key elements in developing the county and the society, therefore one of Hasina’s top priorities is to particularly work with uneducated women in building their confidence and to increase their involvement in economic empowerment programs in order to make their role visible and to make them able to take decision in family. That is one of the important reasons which bring Ms. Aimaq to Zardozi.

“Never underestimate your abilities and skills, you women are the ones who can bring positive changes in your community, and although there will always be obstacles, yet you should never give up because the door of hope is always open,” she advices women.

She adds, “Zardozi clients will be the most effective role models for all women who feel they can’t take part in developing the society because of their limited education.”

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Farida Sorabi – an inspiration for her village’s women

With a hundreds of women benefiting from Zardozi’s programs, a woman like Farida Sorabi not only uplifts herself but also opens her arms for more women to earn a kind of respect which they never had experienced before.

Six years ago, Farida’s husband saw a back injury in a car accident and stopped working. Since he was the sole breadwinner of the family, their economic situation broke down and a lot of money was spent on his medical treatment. Farida was mentally affected by her husband’s sickness and overall home expenses. When she went to Pakistan for treatment, the doctors advised her to keep herself distracted with a suitable work.

Upon return, Farida decided to enroll in a literacy course where she studied until 6th grade and learned to read and write a little bit. At the meanwhile, she also asked Ministry of Women Affairs for financial support. MOWA told her about Zardozi and subsequently shared her contact information with the office. In 2013 her life would take a different turn.

Farida got introduced to business ideas in the Manbeh meetings, and gradually started to create her reputation for stitching and sewing good clothes. This gave Farida the courage to hire and train neighbors’ women who wished to learn tailoring from her. “More and more women urged to learn tailoring; therefore I had to build this large room. It wouldn’t be possible without Zardozi’s loan and my husband’s support,” says Farida. “Even this space is not enough. The business requires me to expand this place further to decrease the workload,” she added.

Farida says that she always reminds her trainees about the lessons learned and risks in business. “I remember when one time I let down a customer and suffered a huge loss. I did not look at my trainees work and submitted the products without proper check,” recalled Farida. She also pushes them to work hard because she believes that there is no gain without struggle and sacrifice.

What amazes us about Farida is her heartfelt sympathy and care for other disadvantaged women in her village. Farida advocates for the rights of poor women in her village when she visits her parents’ house. Most of the times, she visits her old neighbors and encourages their daughters to attend schools. She inspires them to work, and to become self-reliant. Farida says, “It hurts me to see women grieve in poverty and disrespect.” “I not only inform them about their rights but also show them different ways of helping themselves,” she added.

Six years ago Farida is not the same person anymore. She has her own home, a car and good running business. Her room is full of appreciation and recognition letters from Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce & Industries (ACCI), and other organizations.

Farida will be soon displaying her products in an international exhibition in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. This is not the first exhibition she attends. Farida Sorabi is the only client who has license from Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, and Municipality as well as the membership card of ACCI, which has allowed her to also participate in a lot of local exhibitions in different provinces of Afghanistan.


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Zardozi Brings More Women on Board

It is with great pleasure to announce the addition of a highly qualified and capacitated woman to Zardozi family. We extend our warm welcome to Ms. Rahima Paiman, who recently filled in the position of Regional Manager in Kabul.

We are happy to have our third female regional manager who will be a great asset in understanding and improving Afghan women’s lives through effective implementation of Zardozi programs.

After receiving her Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Uludag University in Turkey, Ms. Rahima also comes with an extensive work experience with different organizations during her residence in Afghanistan.

Ms. Paiman previously worked with Zardozi as Marketing Development Manager. She had always presented an impressive overview of her work and knowledge. She is passionate about delivering unsurpassed client services and led her team to provide excellent services to a big number of women in Kabul.

Endeavoring to run a ‘women for women’ organization, bringing more women on board is a key part of Zardozi’s mission now. We are fortunate to have a well-deserving person filling this vital position.

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NIC’s for women

National ID card (NIC) is an indicator of an individual’s belonging to a country to prevent forgery, ensure electoral transparency and ease public access to various services such as education, medical care, and employment. Unfortunately, in Afghanistan, majority of the women are still denied this basic human right. According to Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 56 per cent of women do not have NICs. This number is high despite all the efforts of government and national and international organizations that provide public awareness about the benefits of attaining Tazkiras.

Zardozi Kadars came to know the problem when women in Shewaki located in the South Eastern part of Kabul city, did not have identification cards to receive loans for their start-ups.

When the Kadars asked the women to make Tazkiras, they saw a resistance by the male family members who did not deem it necessary for women to have NICs.

Thirty-three years old Jamila who attends the Shewaki Manbeh said that she took her ID card when she was suffering from back pain and therefore had to travel to Pakistan. In order to travel, her family had to get her Tazkira. “Otherwise, I would never have one,” says Jamila.

After discussing the problem with Kabul office, Zardozi Kadars decided to convince the families of the clients and spread awareness about the importance of National ID cards.

Persuading men to unlock their women from social taboos is not as easy as the story is being told in words or the successes being achieved. Neither is being a Kadar easy to tackle societal problems. Kubra explains that it took two months to talk to families and go back and forth to their homes until they finally convinced their men.

The men agreed only if the Kadars accompanied their women to get ID cards for them. Currently 22 clients of Zardozi have Tazkiras in Shewaki village.  Some of them applied for Zardozi loans using their ID cards to start their businesses or buy the necessary equipment for expanding their work.

Sakina who attended NIC awareness session in Manbeh says, “There is nothing wrong with holding a Tazkira. It determines that I am Afghan; without it I am no one.”

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Nafisa Embroidery Machine

“Self-belief and hard work will always earn you success”, believes 35 years old Nafisa- a mother of three daughters and three sons. Nafisa comes from Behsod district of Nangarhar province where she lives with her big family of ten people. Her husband is the only breadwinner, doing a small labor job which earns him 5000 AFS per month- not enough money to pay for all their bills.

Joining Zardozi became a turning point for an ordinary tailor Nafisa where she first stepped out of the four walls of her home, faced difficulties and took up the challenge to shape her life in a better way.

Among her other female friends, Nafisa grew her tailoring skills more rapidly. She bought two embroidering machines for her work. But to learn about its utilization she had to learn it from a professional tailor in the market.

Approaching the local shopkeepers, Nafisa was told that only men have the strength to operate these machines. “You are a woman. It is out of your capability,” she recalled of the shopkeeper’s words still buzzing in her ears. However, Nafisa says that she didn’t listen to his words and responded back with anger, “women and men have equal strength to work and earn money. I will prove it soon.”

Nafisa took the challenge, learned to run the machines, and applied for Zardozi loan to activate solar system in her house in order to avoid electricity problems. Her work gradually attracted other male tailors in the market who signed contracts with her and referred their customers to her.

With a big smile on her face and glitter of victory in her eyes, Nafisa says she showed her work to the tailor who had undermined women’s capability. “That sense of achievement was the best moment of my life,” she says.

Nafisa’s cleverness, energy and enthusiasm also led her to become tailoring assistant (namely service provider) to Zardozi business trainer in the Community Business Center (Manbeh). On Manbeh days, she guides other women on their tailoring skills for which she is also paid some money by the organization.

As part of Zardozi’s sustainability program, recognizing and hiring capacitated and diligent workers like Nafisa has helped the organization to sustain itself to some extent so that when there is no Zardozi, its operations will be still alive. Our objective is to create a cycle by empowering women with the right skills and self-confidence to run their societies and support other women.