Author Archives: admin

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Zardozi clients distributed free masks

“I knew that we are living in the danger of a bad virus which does not have any cure yet, so I distributed free masks. I tried to have my small part of contribution to the community.”

Driven by strong sense of responsibility and care, Sabza, Malalai and Rohena are clients of Zardozi who works as service provider and Executive Committee Memebers of Zardozi’s Manbeh/CBC in far districts of Kabul.

The three women are also skilled tailors in their respective areas. Each of them in their own village came up with the idea of making clean masks out of leftover clothes. They used the clothes to make masks for the people who were suffering from hunger and also could not afford the high prices of pharmacies to protect themselves against coronavirus.

Malalai who has a tailoring production workshop of baby sets and dresses says, “The pharmacies are so cruel with their skyrocketing prices.”“I could not just stay home and do nothing while seeing all these people die. Therefore, I made 400 facemasks and distributed it among the labors with the help of my father.”

Similary, Sabza and Rohena, each made 100 and 350 masks from pieces of clothes that were left from other people’s dresses. They distributed the masks to their neighbors and street vendors in Project Khurasan of Kabul.

“I hear that the masks may not fully stop the virus, but people are helpless, they come out, they can’t die from hunger inside their houses either. The mask is just a hope that may decrease the spread of the virus, and we are doing what is in our capacity,” Sabza said.

In a country like Afghanistan, where a high majority of people live below the poverty line, the coronavirus crisis has hit the country with more devastation. Thus, such stories and acts of kindness gives us hope and encourage us to do what we can as individuals.


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Zarifa Fights COVID-19 by Sewing Masks

Just like many of our clients in Herat, 28 years old Zarifa’s economy was also hit by the coronavirus crisis and government quarantine order.

Zarifa together with her two brothers, who are mechanics by profession, was the only breadwinner of the family but as the markets were closed, their financial situation also disrupted.

Zarifa contacted Nisfe Jahan office to seek for any kind of help that could help alleviate the situation.

Zardozi’s Mazar-e-sharif vocational/business trainers advised and helped her with preparing a new design of mask as a sample.

Meanwhile, Kadar in the coordination with the marketing team did some market research, showed Zarifa’s masks’ samples to clinics and drugstores, and discussed business with them. Following a few days of marketing, Zardozi’s Mazar-e-sharif office introduced Zarifa to one of the drugstores who signed a big order with Zarifa.

Zarifa says, “Now I stitch 100 masks in a day and sell it for 10 AFS to the wholesaler. During this tough time, I get to support my family very well through this income. My whole family prays for Zardozi.”

Zardozi’s Mazar-e-sharif regional manager says that it’s a very difficult time for everyone but even harder for the poor people. Although, protecting her staff is the first important part of her job, but each office member is ready to sacrifice to reach out to those in pain. They work day and night to come up with income generating ideas for women while taking social distancing into mind.


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Zardozi’s Achievements in Herat during Quarantine

Herat turned out to have the most cases of COVID-19 in Afghanistan. According to the Aljazeera report, it became the hotbed for coronavirus cases as many Afghans returned from Iran, and safety measures were underestimated.

The organization identified that health tips and awareness about preventing the virus are the foremost essential thing since rural areas are the most susceptible to the virus.

Zardozi’s office in Herat was closed immediately after many deaths were

reported and the staff was instructed to work from home. Hence, while people got unemployed and helpless due to self-quarantine, Zardozi and Kadar came together to initiate plans that generated income for the poor families.

The organization identified that health tips and awareness about preventing the virus are the foremost essential thing since rural areas are the most susceptible to the virus.

As the majority of the people did not have electricity, or access to TV and internet, two teams from Zardozi decided to distribute Corona related information brochures and advertising posters that were easily understood by the uneducated population.

These brochures along with voice messages on loudspeakers on top of trucks were provided by Herat’s Department of Health to Zardozi, as a result of which 2995 people were given the posters in 18 districts of Herat.

During these times of lockdown, people’s biggest concern was suffering from joblessness and hunger at home. To tackle this issue, clients were given the idea of cultivating vegetables at their houses which is both healthy and economical. Zardozi sent online training through its IMO chatbox, gave the loan, and purchased seeds for clients who had land and the capacity to plant vegetables and sell them at a reasonable price in the market.

Meena who started growing vegetables in her backyard, says that this was an important initiative in the face of skyrocketing prices of food in the bazaar. She says if all families do the same, they will be able to slightly sustain themselves throughout this disaster.

At the same time, Zardozi clients also took preventative measures and used their tailoring skills to make masks and personal protective equipment kits that included gowns and gloves. They started their work by signing an MoU and contract of 15,000 masks and hundreds of gowns with the Agency for Assistance and Development of Afghanistan (AADA).

The clients believe that making the PPT Kit has not only made an income for their families but it will also bring down the price of this equipment in the market if they sew many and sell them at a cost as low as 5 AFS per mask and 250-300 AFS per gown.

Zardozi’s Herat Regional Office Manager says that the pandemic affected many of their clients’ daily income but making the PPT kit was a good opportunity for 100 clients to earn some money for their children. She says that the client’s work has attracted more clinics and supermarkets as the office continuously strives to bring more contracts for clients and do marketing for their product which will come at a low cost for hospitals and people.



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Zardozi Continues Its Activities as COVID-19 Cases Climbs in Afghanistan

As the coronavirus spread rapidly across the globe, social distancing and staying at home orders by the government came to effect immediately in Afghanistan as well. Businesses, schools, universities, and offices closed down while many started working from home.

The quarantine, although necessary, had its side effects on the country’s economy and people’s life. Zardozi also take the brunt of the shut down as its programs for 6,000 clients in 4 provinces ceased to implement.

Nonetheless, as the staff and clients sat back in their homes, the uncomfortable feeling of those families suffering from hunger and depression inflicted by the global pandemic had Zardozi to not sit quietly at home and virtually serve as many clients as it can.

Zardozi minimized its activities and drafted plans that are focused on helping women find a different source of income using their tailoring and farming skills. Zardozi established online platforms for women who had access to smartphones and the internet in their districts. So far, it has been successful at taking advantage of WhatsApp and IMO’s social media platforms where Zardozi is connected to a range of 35 to 116 women in each of the four provinces.

These social media platforms are used for spreading awareness about coronavirus, announcing work opportunities, providing psychological help and business advice and implementing various other plans during the quarantine.

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Women work with men to build their community

As the common saying goes by, “men and women are two wings of a country. Just like a bird cannot fly with one wing, a country cannot develop without men and women working together.”

Zardozi Kadar’s are trained and empowered to educate other women about their social and legal rights. They raise awareness about the significance of women’s participation in solving community’s problems that strangle them equally.

Recently, our clients in districts of Mini Baba Yadgaris, Baba Ali Shir and Choghdak gathered to consult with Kadars to solve their problem with public transportation and cleanliness of roads and streets. Issues that were ignored by the men, women were now taking the lead to bring government’s attention to develop their areas.

Facilitating trade and transportation

On the outskirt of Mazar-e-Sharif, Mini Baba Yadgaris is a small village with little access to urban life advantages. When Zardozi clients and Kadars met on a usual Manbeh (Community Business Center) meeting day, they brought up the lack of public transportation which was affecting their access to market and businesses.

In addition, the people of the area commute several hours on feet to reach to the bus station to get to their destinations. Robbery, physical and verbal harassment are some of the biggest problems that the villagers face. What is more worrisome is that the women are harassed in the bus station which is normally packed with more men. Most of the times, the drivers don’t allow women on their buses because the male travelers do not sit next to them due to religious and cultural restrictions.

During the Manbeh meeting with Kadar, the women prepared a petition and submitted it to respective elders and council of the community for approval and further suggestion. The petition was also to make a request for women-only-transportation into the area.

The elders of the community assured that the government will first construct the roads followed by a proper public transportation system for men and women of the community. The government started the implementation of this project at the beginning of 2020.

Garbage Collection

In Choghdak village of Mazar-e-Sharif, 21 clients of Zardozi continuously insisted on the request for garbage collection from community elders until they themselves approached the municipality to provide them a garbage collection truck.

Zardozi Kadars and Executive Committee Members of this Manbah wrote an application to Clean and Green Cities Directorate of Mazar-e-Sharif’s Municipality to solve their problem. When the community leaders learned about this, they also felt obliged to support the women and to connect them with a relevant Directorate in the district.

After several visits to the Directorate and follow up of the issue with elders of the village, the women were able to receive a garbage collection truck in their areas. Currently, the truck removes waste from their neighborhoods on daily basis and each home pays a small fee in return.

The ECMs of Zardozi say, “People pray for us every day for making this happen. It feels very good to be appreciated.”



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Happy International Women’s Day!

In the midst of COVID 19 (Coronavirus) crisis when people are seeking isolation and distance from one another, Zardozi’s Kabul staff members came together for a tea-talk on International Women Day to share the joy of this special occasion.

Zardozi celebrated March 8 to remember the day of those who are despised and undermined every day and to acknowledge all the mothers, sisters, wives and daughters who are not recognized for working day and night in raising their children to become great men and women.

The male staff members in Zardozi appreciated each woman working in the organization as an employee and client. They spoke about the women’s bravery and the daily challenges they face to achieve their basic rights. They also made a cake, and gifted flowers and pens as sign of gratitude and respect.

This International Women’s Day, we share stories of the progress of the women in rural areas who started their businesses from nothing while some others who have gone out in secret to learn skills that would change their life for good.


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Successful Businesswomen of the Year

“I am very proud of my mother today. I want to thank her because she works very hard to feed me and my sisters,” said Nadira’s son when he saw his mother walk on the stage and receive applause and appreciation from the guests in the hall. (Nadira, 38, is a restaurant owner, successful businesswoman and the only breadwinner of her family in Shewaki village of Kabul)

On Thursday, 30th of January, Zardozi celebrated nine successful women from among hundreds of other clients in Kabul. These women were chosen from various districts on the outskirts of Kabul where men and women segregation is on a large scale. The successful women celebration is one of Zardozi’s significant tactics in bringing together both women and men in one room to acknowledge women’s accomplishments and raise support for the hard work they do outside and inside the house.

We believe that events like this positively change the mindset of men and family members. Family support is vital for the progress of women’s businesses since there is always a mother-in-law, a father, a husband and or a brother who will prevent their women from working, but there is no one to show them the bright side. That’s where Zardozi finds it necessary to attain that support for its clients by facilitating platforms such as the successful women celebration.

Among the celebrated women on this day was Fatima- a single mother who fulfills both a mother’s and a father’s role for her children. Fatima’s hard work had all of her kids enrolled in schools and universities. However, Fatima says that after the death of her husband, her mother-in-law was the only person that stood behind her and encouraged her to sustain herself. “I am grateful to my mother-in-law because without her I would have never been able to recover from the grief of losing my husband and taking care of my babies alone,” said Fatima.

The successful businesswomen celebrations have not only achieved men’s support but it has also altered women’s idea about pursuing their businesses. For the majority of the women, the establishment of successful businesses is not borne out of a dream, but it is based on a need.  However, today there are several examples of women who chase it as passion and life’s vision by looking up to the successful businesswomen receiving awards, appreciation, love, and respect from family members, friends, and other clients. To attain that position, they also now follow the same path – establishing mini businesses and asking Zardozi for support.

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Noor Jan Makes Organic Soap to Support her Family

Like many Afghans in Iran, Noor Jan from Herat came back to Afghanistan because the living conditions were bad for Afghans. Upon return, Noor Jan and her mother worked at people’s houses as servants for little money.

Due to financial problems, Noor Jan’s father gave her in marriage to her cousin for money. Although Noor Jan’s new family was relatively well-nurtured, she was beaten and cussed for coming from a poor family who didn’t give her gold and house as a wedding gift – a tradition that long lives in Afghanistan.

“My in-laws used me like a servant. They even didn’t allow me to meet my mother and sisters. I felt helpless and depressed,” Noor Jan expressed in her words.

Noor Jan says that one benefit she had was that she was educated enough to start teaching and keep her new family happy with the money she brought. For a while, this earned her a little respect and place in her family’s heart.

Unfortunately, Noor Jan could not stay longer in her position as well because the schools started hiring teachers with bachelor’s degrees which left her with no job and hope.

In 2014, when Zardozi registered her as a client and trained her in tailoring, Noor Jan found the confidence to do something that could earn her more money than she could make through teaching or sewing.

Zardozi trainers encouraged Noor Jan to learn about soap making since its health benefits had developed a good market.

Together with four more women, she participated in a program facilitated by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development for women. In there, she learned how to make soap and produce it on the market. After some years of success, she opened her private mini factory where she also produced natural almond oil for strong hair. “People are happy with my products. Many of my customers are youngsters who buy these organic soaps for clear skin,” Noor Jan said.

“At first my husband did not allow me to participate in any programs but when I told him that there are no men in my workplace, he not only gave me permission, but he also brought me natural almond oil which is filtered in my workshop and sold in shops and exhibitions,” appended Noor Jan.

She added that she feels very proud when her husband calls her an artist and involves her in making all kinds of decisions. Currently, Noor Jan is the leader of her home and is no longer vulnerable to violence by her in-laws.

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Women’s First Savings Groups in Mazar-e-Sharif

Afghan women in rural Afghanistan are gradually rising as the breadwinners of their families as they pay for their children’s education and facilitate modest living conditions.

Most of the women, who are clients of Zardozi, are currently having established small businesses through which they support their families and stand beside their husbands.

In many cases, Zardozi provides seed money or equipment from its loan budget for these businesses. The women pay back without giving interest which also preserves the Islamic values that forbid interest.

Recently, Zardozi learned about new ways of assisting women to set up small enterprises. With the support of Zardozi, Mazar-e-Sharif women started Savings Groups at the Community Business Centers/Manbehs where each woman saves a small amount of money every week.

The Saving Groups are founded to enhance self-reliability and a sense of responsibility among women. Zardozi was inspired by the Savings Groups’ idea when the team visited PEKKA’s (woman-headed households empowerment program) savings groups in Indonesia.

Therefore, several groups of women in 30 Manbehs followed this model and started Saving Groups in August 2019. With the help of Operation Mercy, each group that consists of 25 women was guided by trained Kadars and staff members.

In contrary to Zardozi’s loan budget that is arranged by the donor, women in saving groups save more than 10-50 AFS in a safe box in the Manbeh, every week. This money is thereafter collected and used as loans to maintain, establish, or expand small businesses by the women.

Ms. Nasreen Sahibzada, Zardozi’s regional manager in Mazar-e-sharif says that the savings do not only facilitate the establishment of businesses by women, but some women in the group have also used their savings for their personal needs such as paying their children’s tuition fees or facilitating a workshop for themselves in Manbeh.

“For the start of an initiative like this, we have made good progress. We plan to raise 100,000 AFS in the next year and slowly increase the amount based on the capability of women,” says Nasreen Sahibzada.

The Savings program has had many advantages for both women and Zardozi. For example, it has increased women’s attendance by 50% in the Manbeh since their money is invested here. Also, women are able to instantly and without going through long processes take loans from their savings.

Ms. Monira who is a client of Khorasn Manbeh and a member of the savings group says that she needed money urgently to start her business before winter. Monira took a loan within 2 days and bought a popcorn machine for her husband. “I didn’t expect that I will get the loan this quickly. Now my husband brings 400 AFS every day which enabled us to buy warm clothes and a heater for our home.”

Ms. Masooma from Zarat Manbeh says, “The savings program has helped me save the money which I would spend each day on buying unnecessary things. Now, all that money is saved in a better place and I can do something big with it in the future.”

Zardozi is planning to establish many of these groups in all of its regions so that if the international funding stops, women will have the motivation and self-sufficiency to continue and sustain their businesses.

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Providing Equal Opportunity for All

When it comes to transgender people, Afghanistan is a more difficult place to live in for Trans people than it is for women.  They either migrate to western countries or subdue their real identity at home country. The moment they come out to their families and society, they are locked at homes, abandoned or ridiculed by their families and society. The Afghan laws do not protect their right to education, work and especially marriage. Homosexuality is deemed a shame and crime in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, Zardozi stands in full support of the diverse community it works with. It has given voice to the voiceless regardless of their gender differences.  In this story, Alla Gul who tells his real name as something else is a transgender.

Sixteen years old Alla Gul is from Nangarhar where he lives together with his six brothers and three sisters. He came out to his family three years ago which came as a shock to his parents. It took his family a long time to embrace and live with the fact.

Alla Gul is a smart and brave kid. Every little and big step has been a big fight for him. Although serving as a servant at one of the hospitals in Nangarhar, Alla Gul still does not have the courage to attend big gatherings such as wedding ceremonies, funerals, or even visiting relatives.

After becoming Zardozi’s client, he recognized that going to Manbeh was the only place where he felt safe because the women in Manbeh are very comfortable sitting in one room with him.

With a sad smile on his face, Alla Gul says,“People laugh at me and mock me. Therefore, I am staying at home all the time. Only attending the Manbeh cheers me up. This is the only place where I feel very happy and I can be who I am. I also like to play cricket with other kids, to go to the Mosque for prayer and to learn Quran-e-Sharif, but I cannot. Instead, I am now learning Quran from my trainers and other women in Manbeh.”

For Alla Gul, it is easy to be surrounded by women especially when he shares the same skills with them: Tailoring and Gul Dozi.

“Zardozi staff members are very kind to me. They invite me to their events and exhibitions which is something new for me, but it is also a place where I can express myself through my skills and products. Some people respect me for my work which is a big thing for a transgender in a country like Afghanistan.”

He adds that there are many NGOs who work for human rights, but they have ignored the transgender people. They are neglected in every walk of life. The possibility of death is higher for this particular group of people.

“But I am thankful to Zardozi colleagues because they accepted me for who I am and taught me important skills. You know, one of the best feelings for me has been that when a customer praises my work and tells me how my concept is wonderful, innovative and meets their needs perfectly,” he exclaimed!

Alla Gul is still very concerned about his future. He does not know what will life offer him but what he knows very well is that people will always say bad things, but he will not allow them to hold him back.