Author Archives: admin

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How a water filter machine empowered Maryam

Exposed to relentless risk of terrorism, Afghans have to confront a second perilous problem – the acute shortage of clean water in the cities and villages. According to National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA), 70% of the underground water in Kabul is contaminated with bacteria and harmful chemicals which have put many lives at risk. Majority of the people, who do not have another option, consumes the unclean water, as a result of which residents suffer from various waterborne diseases.

In the rising quest for clean water, Zardozi’s client in Kabul, Ms. Maryam responsible for a 9-member family of lower class status started her private water business. After attending Zardozi Manbeh’s (Community Business Centers), Maryam found the courage to ask her husband to help her with her new business idea and plan. Maryam’s husband used to work in a private water supply company, therefore his help was vital to Maryam to run the business. Without any hesitation, Maryam and her husband bought the necessary equipments and filtering machines.

“I started this business because as citizen of this country, I felt obliged to have some contribution to the wellbeing of my people. But starting this business was also not far from risks, because we had to ensure the quality of the water and gain people’s trust. Plus the constant power outage is another challenge to overcome since most days of the month we are not able to supply the adequate amount of water; therefore we don’t earn much either,” says Maryam. However, Maryam is happy full filling her duties as a responsible citizen.

Maryam told us that her business does not run under a specific brand name, but she has built enough trust so that the neighborhood buys the water from her due to their urgent needs. Plus many of her neighbors buy her water, because it is cheaper than subscribing to a company. Gulmaki who is maryam’s neighbor says that ever since she has seen Maryam filtering impure water through the water purifiers, the water tastes fine and it is better than the water the district was getting from the wells.

Currently Maryam is able to support her daughter’s education who pursues to become a dentist. Maryam’s daughter told us about her mother, “I am able to get higher education because of my mother’s hard work. My father would have never been able to cover the education expenses of all of my siblings on his own.” Even though, the business does not profit the family to a larger extent, they are living happily together and are grateful about how much they earn.


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Zardozi staff bringing home success

Our employees are the building blocks of our organization with the help of whom we are able to stand firm and committed to our goals and objectives to change and prosper the lives of poor Afghan women. Today, we are celebrating the achievement of another remarkable member of Zardozi family, 21 years old Balqis Ehsan.

On Monday, September 24, 2018, ACBAR celebrated its 30th anniversary followed by #StoryOfAfghanistan Photo Exhibition and Contest. The contest took place between different NGOs whose photos were put forth for juries to decide on best photo award of the year.

We are delighted to announce that a photo captured by Balqis Ehsan has secured the first prize award which portrayed the true services of Zardozi among other organizations. The selected photo too illustrates the hard work of a working mother at a tailoring workshop.

Balqis Ehsan joined Zardozi as Communications and Outreach Officer in 2017. Ever since, we have observed an enormous growth in her capabilities as a determined employee. We are continually impressed by her results at work and wish her best of luck.

Zardozi take as much pride in the achievements of its female staff as much as it does in its male staff members.

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Zardozi Participated in Passage to Prosperity 2018

Zardozi presented eight of its best clients and their products in Passage to Prosperity: India-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Show in Mumbai, held on September 12-15, 2018.

Supported by US, Passage to Prosperity was initiated as a platform to boost economic ties between Afghanistan and India by connecting Indian investors and contractors with Afghan sellers and producers who displayed various kinds of products at the exhibition.

The event has been a great opportunity for both promoting Afghan products as they were shown noteworthy of greater value, and strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries who have historically enjoyed cooperation on different levels. Programs such as Passage to Prosperity are initial steps of economic prosperity for both countries since it will also expose Afghan products to international buyers.

“We were able to relatively attract many investors to our unique choice of designs, color combinations and great quality of hand embroidery. Some of our materials were sold at the expected price. Most importantly, women were acknowledged for their extraordinary skills and abilities,” exclaimed one of Zardozi clients.

Zardozi thanks FHI Goldozi for sponsoring the trip and cooperating with Zardozi for retaining contracts and orders from the contractors and investors at the event. We are also pleased to have found the opportunity to negotiate and sign business deals and establish new relationships with other Afghan companies for mutual work in Afghanistan.


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Ms. Nargis – the wedding photographer

Zardozi’s successful client in Kabul is a talented and multi-skilled 22-years-old Nargis who is the only girl child at her home. Unlike the old parents, Nargis’s parents have always felt fortunate to have a daughter. Therefore, they have raised Nargis with much love and allowed her to complete her education and pursue a career of her interest.

Inspired by her mother who is Zardozi’s Kadar, Nargis became interested in joining Zardozi to learn tailoring. She came to Zardozi in 2015. Thereafter, Nargis excelled in her tailoring and business skills and supported her mother with maintaining the financial situation of the family. “My goal was not limited to tailoring only. Difficult economic circumstances led me to explore more skills so besides tailoring I also started a cooking course from my trainer at Zardozi. I also relied on some trainings outside Zardozi.” Being a fast learner, Nargis finished her 5-months cooking training and was soon able to cook Italian and Afghani food in an office affiliated to Italians.

Moving between different careers, Nargis’s mother says, “Nargis is very ambitious and loves change. I believe she will never become jobless, because she has worked in different fields which will enable her to switch jobs when necessary.”

Interestingly, Nargis has currently started a new business. Suggested by her friends, she learned photography and filming from a photo production company called “Pazhang” while also seeking help from Zardozi’s expert staff. Observing her enthusiasm, Nargis got hired by the same company as wedding photographer. “I earn 2,000 Afs for every wedding party that I photograph. I learn new things every day and make good connections and close ties with different families. I am planning to have my personal production company. While it is an interesting profession, it is not perceived respectable by many people,” says Nargis as disappointment covered her eyes.

But she ambitiously added that she wanted to change this trend and make it a female-dominated field, because according to her, women are more useful in this field since the bride opens up to a female photographer easily and not all Afghan families are comfortable with a male photographer to capture their private moments or to go inside a bride’s green room.

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“She” should lead

For years Zardozi- Markets for Afghan Artisans negate people’s general concept about women’s inabilities and demystify women’s potential in important fields such as business and leadership. In looking into the future, Zardozi wants to create a place that is run by women for women, because opportunities for women often come from other women as they can better understand and address the challenges of the women they work for. Working in an Afghan society, Zardozi has identified a dire need for hiring female regional managers for its offices in other provinces recently.

In order to smoothly escalate our goals and services to a larger number of women, we have successfully hired Nasrin Sahibzada and Aziza Karimi as our first regional office managers in Jalalabad and Heart offices.

Jalalabad regional manager, Ms. Nasreen’s professional career started at Zardozi in 2010. She started working in the field of market development and gradually promoted to higher positions. Zardozi saw her best candidate for Jalalabad’s regional manager position.  Ms. Nasreen’s commitment and thoughtful guidance and support for women securing a better future are great achievements for Zardozi. Ms. Sahibzada’s eyes filled with hope and enthusiasm as she told us, “These women need us. In order to solve problems that are too personal to women, we must put them in a comfortable situation to speak up without hesitation. Previously women were shy when discussing their life with male managers but they are happy now. We can find better solutions once we recognize the problems accurately.”

“There is a valid reason why the organization is hiring more women in our offices,” says Zardozi’s Market Development Manager. She adds, “Since Zardozi has based its Community Business Centers -Manbehs- in family houses where a non-family male is not allowed so that the women who are benefiting from our services are relaxed and their families are at ease to let them attend the Manbehs, a male regional manager cannot observe Manbehs directly and is not able to meet and discuss women’s problems and needs from near. This way, it is also difficult for managers to identify problems properly and find relevant resolutions because not all reports they receive convey the exact information needed.”

We also interviewed clients from Manbehs in Herat. Ms. Shagofa said, “My family trusts Zardozi because most of our interaction is with women staff. Previously when I would call our regional manager for solving problems, my family would doubt why I am talking with a ‘Non Mahram (male from whom Purdah is obligatory in Islam). The new regional manager, Ms. Karimi is a very good woman.”

Ms. Nasrin Sahibzada also added that the objective is not only to make Zardozi a comfortable place for our women clients but also to empower women by placing them in leadership and managerial positions where they can unleash their potential and become role models for other women. “I am working hard to omit the general stereotypes through my job. I want to create an atmosphere where my female and male colleagues do not feel the difference of whether a male or female is leading them because both have equal capabilities of running an office.”

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Zardozi’s first female regional manager

We are pleased to announce that Zardozi- Markets for Afghan Artisans welcomes its first female regional manager in Zardozi’s leadership. Ms. Aziza Karimi who has recently been hired as the regional manager in Herat province comes with great qualifications, experience and new ideas for the promotion and development of less privileged afghan women.

On Wednesday, August 29, 2018, Zardozi’s Executive Director, Ms. Homa Usmany introduced Ms. Aziza Karimi to her new office in an event where Justice Chief, Ghulam Mahommad Rahmani; Deputy Head of Department of Economy, Mr. Hossieni; Head of the Craft and Trade Union, Mr. Abdul Wadood Faizzada; Chief of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Women, Maryam Jami; and Head of the Women’s Worker’s Union and representative of the Human Rights Commission, Ms. Malaka Resoly were also invited.

 At the beginning of the event, Ms. Usmany spoke about Zardozi’s activities and enlightened the guests about how the organization finds and expands markets for Afghan women where their businesses can grow and flourish while also providing them with business training. During the speeches, Mr. Ghulam Mahommad Rahmani also spoke on the significance and need of female managers and appreciated Ms. Karimi for her courage and commitment to women empowerment and their economic growth. He said that women are the pillars of the society; therefore they have to take vital positions in various sections.

Ms. Karimi thanked Zardozi and called on government to support the organization’s objective to save women from domestic violence and financial breakdown. Zardozi looks forward to working with Aziza Karimi and wishes her success in all of her endeavors.

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Shakila overcame her depression at Zardozi

Bibi Shakila is one of the Afghan mothers who lost her 22 years old son to the war. After her son’s death, Bibi Shakila’s oldest son decided to join the Afghan army forces and fight the enemies who took away people like his brother. Dreaded by the death of her second son, Bibi Shakila could not afford to lose another son and begged him to not to go to army. Instead, she worked hard to learn embroidery and tailoring by joining Zardozi.

Since Bibi Shakila’s son and ill husband are jobless, she becomes the only breadwinner for the family. She started with taking some business and tailoring trainings from Zardozi and practiced embroidery at the Community Business Center (Manbeh) near her home. At the meanwhile she started sewing clothes for her neighbors. Within first two years, Shakila tremendously improved her skills and she could find good earnings as she found many customers who were happy from her work. Currently, Shakila does not only have a tailoring workshop where she has hired six female tailors but she also opened a beauty parlor with Zardozi’s loan money. While pursuing interest in both embroidery and fashion, Bibi Shakila explains, “fashion became my passion when I used to watch beautiful tall women walk on floor in TV shows. I always wished to design clothes and deal with cosmetics treatments for women. Economical difficulties led me to learn these skills.”

During the talks, Shakila said, “My son’s death was my life’s biggest tragedy but as they say what does not kill you makes you stronger, I found my strength and courage here at Zardozi. Work keeps me busy and stops me from negative thoughts.”

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Behind every successful woman is herself

The evolution of ‘celebrating successful women’ started in 2013 when Zardozi’s former director Kerry Jane Wilson realized the need to assess and appreciate the success which women have sought throughout their entrepreneurial journey. Successful women celebration is a way for Zardozi to boost confidence in women, create role models for others while also seek the attention and support of their fathers, husbands and brothers.

This month Zardozi recognized Ms. Suraya, Ms. Sabira and Ms. Zahra for their outstanding performance in maintaining a healthy business, despite facing all sort of problems. The brothers and fathers of the women who were also important part of the celebration ceremony were invited to the stage. Ms. Sabira’s father stood behind the podium with tears in his eyes and said, “My daughter has grown up into a very strong woman. She took care of her 6 months old baby on her own when her husband died in Iran two years ago. This is not an easy task for a single mother but she did it!”

We talked to the program director and staff of Zardozi who are committed to organizing more events. They told us about the problems they face each time they plan a program, because Zardozi aims to invite the male members who are most often a barrier to the success of their sisters and mothers to run a business. “Sometimes we are not able to convince most of the family members to attend these ceremonies which also discourages the woman who are getting recognized. It is difficult but we are also not stepping back,” said Nadia Tabish.

At the end of the event, Zahra whose husband have been in Iran for years says, “although your family is your biggest strength but the effort, courage and determination you put into yourself is all what sources from you and within you; that is when you should say that behind every successful woman is herself.”

We are informed that most of our celebrations result into good words being spread around the successful woman’s neighborhood. A competition begins among the women to nominate themselves for the next celebrations. Also, the men who hear and watch their women getting appreciated later encourages their male friends to allow their women to work. In an instance, Suraya’s father in-law told Zardozi, “I wish I knew about Zardozi earlier. I will advocate for women in my village and speak with the community leaders to not make troubles for your good efforts.”

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Frozan’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Led Her to Live a Better Life

Ms. Frozan comes from a small district of Mazara Sharif, Hajat Rawa. She has three children, and the eldest of all is 12 years old. Like many beneficiaries, Frozan took the opportunity and extracted the utmost advantage from Zardozi’s programs to earn as much she could in order to provide her children a standard education and a healthy lifestyle. Frozan’s friendly behavior and human connections enabled her to attract many customers and build connections with sellers and contractors.

Within one month, Frozan became the leader of her team at Manbeh and taught other women tailoring skills in the absence of Zardozi’s trainers. “Frozan became a good friend in less than an hour when I first saw her. Her tailoring skills are impressive,” said Habiba—a close friend of frozen at the Manbeh. Within 3 years, Frozan also started her personal tailoring workshop and bought necessary machinery by taking a loan from Zardozi. She hired six other women at the workshop who help her manage big contracts and complete public orders on time. “My first big contract was making 300 pairs of party dresses. The income derived was 300,000 AFS. I had never dreamt of earning this amount of money,” exclaimed Frozan.

Ms. Frozan’s husband, a shopkeeper, says that he is very proud of his wife and encourages her to further expand her business. Frozan proudly mentioned, “My husband supported me at times when people spoke ill of me while attending Manbeh. He trusted me and never stopped me even once.” Frozan’s children are now in one of Mazar-e-sharif’s best schools. Both she and her husband run the house smoothly without large financial difficulties.

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Yes, Women Can Be Leaders, too!

“Some examples of great leaders are Ashraf Ghani, Karzai, our fathers, and our husbands,” answered a group of women when the leadership trainer asked them about who they recognize as leaders. But none of the examples of great leaders were women. Even when women play central roles in their families and societies, they are still undermined—a result of the lack of awareness that people have about the positions and potentials of women. Most of the women in the room don’t recognize the fact that they, too, are leaders, and that they make an equal contribution to society as their male counterparts.

Zardozi acknowledges this problem by sequencing its priorities, determining which programs can best fulfill the needs of women. We have set leadership trainings at the top of the agenda because these workshops help build women’s sense of importance to step out of their homes and make a difference.

As the information circles around the room, more women speak up about what leadership is and who can be a leader. Samina, 18 and educated, says, “All mothers are leaders.” Frozan also jumps in to explain the traits of good leaders: “A leader should be open minded, educated, honest, be able to solve people’s problems, and be a person who has a vision for the betterment of the future.” The trainer, Ms. Farida, simultaneously asks different questions from the 10 women who are present in the room on Tuesday’s session. Since most of these women have not had access to basic education, Ms. Farida acquires different ways to help the trainees understand better. In her training materials bag, she brings leadership related pictures (mostly images of female leaders), a laptop to show various videos, and other materials that can be used in performing games or carrying out role-plays.

In her feedback, Zarina speaks about her experience, “I haven’t missed even one day of the training sessions. Attending these classes has helped me know myself and my value. Now I know that yes, women can be leaders, too!” She further adds, “Women are not made for hiding at the corners of their rooms. We have had strong female leaders back in history and we still see them standing there for the rights of other women and building this country.”

Zardozi’s leadership program not only spreads general awareness, but aims to empower more women to engage in Nisfe-Jahan—to evolve into an organization that will be entirely run by women and for women. The program educates women to vote for and choose Nisfe-Jahan’s leaders who will then represent them and provide them with support. All of these efforts and work for the empowerment of women do come at a cost. Zardozi’s long term goal in attracting larger number of women is a challenging task. While some women attend Zardozi programs secretly, others face abuse on the street while going to the Community Business Centers (Manbeh). The number of women attending the trainings drops at certain times while Zardozi staff has to make settlements with community leaders and local Mullahs. These groups then collaborate with Zardozi by holding meetings with community members to encourage families to allow their wives and sisters to take advantage of the services.