Author Archives: admin

  • 0

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.

  • 0

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.


  • 0

Goldozi Meets Zardozi

On Sunday, July 15, 2018, Zardozi facilitated a consultation meeting for Goldozi where Executive Director, Ms. Homa Usmany, Program Director, Ms. Hasina Aimaq and Kadars (Volunteer Members) met with Goldozi Directors Ms. Susan and her executive team at Zardozi main office. Goldozi is a similar program as Zardozi, therefore, to support the program objectives Zardozi staff and Kadars shared their two decades of experiences, and lessons learned with Goldozi. Zardozi together with Goldozi looked forward improving the livelihoods of Afghan women and discussed their future cooperation in great details.

Zardozi welcomes similar projects as Goldozi and is pleased to announce its support from projects which make an effort toward women empowerment and economic growth.

  • 0

Kadars initiative to open literacy courses

Zardozi works closely with Afghan women to enable them play significant roles in the economy and leadership of Afghanistan as well as engage them in civic activities to build their communities shoulder by shoulder with men.

Today we have the Zardozi Kadars as the empowered women who play vital leadership roles in their societies and work closely with community members to meet their needs and demands.

The Kadars have recently coordinated a literacy course of two classes for the female category of Char Kala-e-Wazir Abad and two classes in another district called Qala-e-Khatir. This demand was initially made by the local women who started to seek for reading and writing skills. Since the Kadar has been active in connecting the people with government for infrastructure purposes, therefore most of the society members see Kadars as bridge between the locals and government for processing their demands.

The Kadars have managed to hire trainers and arrange learning materials through Afghanistan’s Literacy Department. These classes have been facilitated in a local house of the trainees in order to make a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere for women who would otherwise not be allowed by their family members to attend literacy courses in other places than a family house.

Ms. Fatima, who has been working as volunteer member (Kadar) for 5 years with Zardozi talks about the importance of women empowerment through education. “Zardozi prospered my life when I had nothing. During these five years I have learned a lot from my trainers who also gave me the courage to work among a male dominated society. Today I am equipping tens of other women with the weapon of education that will lead to their social and economical independence.”

Who are Kadars?

Kadars are Zardozi’s volunteer members who perform as communication bridge between Zardozi and Nisfe-Jahan’s offices by getting involved in the implementation of Zardozi’s programs, services and activities in the four regions. Zardozi provide several capacity building trainings including business administration to the Kadars in order to prepare them to become the building blocks of their societies and help community members particularly women to engage in civic activities.

  • 0

No more tent schools

Forty-one percent of schools in Afghanistan does not have buildings and for most children it means studying under tents, other unprotected structures or in ‘open-air’.  Similarly in a far district of Heart named ‘Say Polak’, children attend classes in tents or mosques which do not have enough space for all the children of the district especially when it makes it least possible for girls to get an education.

To contribute to this cause, Zardozi Kadars took the initiative to knock on people’s doors and to encourage the families to permit their daughters to go to school and informed them about female teachers availability for their girls since many families are more likely to send their daughters to schools where men are not present. As a result, with the coordination of the community elders, the Kadars signed a petition by the local people and sent it to the Education Department of Heart.

After 7 months of struggles and hurdles, Say Polak has now a school consisting of six classes and 150 male and female students attending the school in different hours of the day. However, this building structure may not suffice the need of 5,000 houses living in the area but it is a small and fundamental step towards development.

One of the Kadars tells us about the difficulties they faced and says, “It is not easy to collect a whole consensus over building a school since most people prioritize other things more than education.  It took us months to spread general awareness and convince people to allow a certain part of their land for school building because government can’t make a school unless the people coordinate.”

Spozhmi who is a resident of the district and also teaches at the school expressed her gratitude to the Kadars: “This is a great step towards development of this country. We are happy we have the Kadars who have always gathered people to promote a good cause which is not always easy especially building a school.”

Who are Kadars?

Kadars are Zardozi’s volunteer members who perform as communication bridge between Zardozi and Nisfe-Jahan’s offices by getting involved in the implementation of Zardozi’s programs, services and activities in the four regions. Zardozi provide several capacity building trainings including business administration to the Kadars in order to prepare them to become the building blocks of their societies and help community members particularly women to engage in civic activities.

  • 0

Increasing new sectors: The dry fruits business

Zardozi is bolstering women’s inclusion in Afghanistan’s economy. It is working to ensure that progress made by Afghan women over the past several years advances by helping women work in different formal and informal business sectors.

In Mazar-e-Sharif, a group of women from Zardozi are making an important contribution to the dry fruits economy of the country but their path is not free from challenges and hurdles to be successful. Dry fruits are an important and challenging business for Afghan women. Many of these women are using traditional methods of drying fruits which is in open-air and sun. This has resulted into poor quality and less production which has portrayed a bad image of Afghan women’s dried fruits business both domestically and internationally.

Monisa who is part of the dry fruit start up group says that her family dried the fruits in open air which would become unhygienic due to grit, dirt and insects such as flies. “Zardozi introduced us to new technology and machineries which uses healthier and time consuming techniques to have large income in relatively low-cost,” added Monisa.

After observing Monisa and her group members’ success with the new dry fruits machinery, many other women were also encouraged to work in this sector and demanded Zardozi’s cooperation in acquiring the new technology. Currently Zardozi works with three dry fruit start up groups in Mazar-e-Sharif to guide them on the usage of the machinery. These groups dry meat and fruits and medicine plants from their gardens and cultivations. The dried product has found a good market in the bazaar and national exhibitions as several wholesale buyers have approached the groups with small and big contracts.

Shakila before buying the machineries spoke about her uncertainties regarding starting this business because her old dry fruit business had not attracted good market. “I was still worried about the new machineries and how they will work out, because I saw big loss in the old business using traditional techniques, but this currently technologically oriented business surprised me with the outcome,” exclaimed Shakila.

While talking about the groups’ successes, Kamila told us about her group’s future ambitions:

“Women can do a lot if they are given the right tools. These are the initial small deals that will make our way to international market. We are hoping to export these fruits to neighbor countries as well which will take a very hard work, passion and hiring of more women to achieve the goal.”

  • 0

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.

  • 0

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.

  • 0

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.

  • 1

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.