Category Archives: Featured Stories

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Poor Kabuli families reach breaking point under the strain of COVID-19

Many of our clients are amongst the poorest women in Kabul. Our staff work with these women to try to help them find a regular income. Our volunteers work to find solutions faced by such women and their communities. We need your help to continue this work.

Mental health services are almost non-existent in Afghanistan so families are left to care for loved ones. Qulsom and her two children struggle to make ends meet. Qulsom’s husband suffers from regular periods of amnesia and in a city with high levels of criminality and terrorism this is worrying. He can’t remember where he lives and sometimes it is several days before he gets home to his frantic family – exhausted and hungry. He tries to find work as a labourer but he cannot keep a job. Gulsom and her husband have two sons – aged 8 and 12 – they have no childhood. They go around their neighbours collecting scraps of bread which they sell to a trader for animal feed. Altogether their income is less than $0.50c per day for each of them. Gulsom tries hard to send her sons to school, sometimes they go but it depends on charity from neighbours. Eggs are a luxury and the family never sees meat. The family eats tea and a little bread for breakfast and bread and potatoes or beans in the evening. Zardozi improved Gulsom’s tailoring skills and showed her how to find work in her neighbourhood, she also helps in her local bakery. In these times of crisis this is the best that Qulsom can manage.

The world has heard about the difficulties faced by widows in Afghanistan. Palwasha’s husband, like so many thousands of women in Afghanistan, was killed when the youngest of their 7 children was 12 years old and she was pregnant with their last child. One of her children has a kidney problem which Palwasha is unable to treat as she doesn’t have the money for the medecine. They rent some space in the basement of a partially completed house in Kabul. In a city of crime this leaves them vulnerable to thieves and other criminals. In the bitterly cold winters of Kabul they try to close the empty window spaces with cardboard. The family eats tea and a little bread for breakfast and bread and potatoes or beans in the evening. With so much anxiety, living in the cold and lack of nutritious food, the children all have to go out and work for the family to survive.

When Palwasha joined Zardozi 5 years ago she was given training to improve her tailoring skills. She had good embroidery skills so she was shown how to do beadwork for which there is a good market and introduced to a wholesaler who likes her work. Like many women she had rarely left home before her husband died and she was terrified. Staff coaxed her and worked with her to get her used to working outside the house. Now her youngest daughter runs the house, whilst Palwasha is working from home or out in the market.  Palwasha is slowly making some savings. When she has enough she will take out a loan from Zardozi and hire some women to work for her doing beadwork and be able to earn a little more money.

 

 


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A plucky Kabuli Grandmother takes on three young thieves

Kubra, 52 years and a grandmother of two, is an activist trained by Zardozi. She has been working in many communities in Kabul. Recently she showed her courage not only by recovering stolen goods from three thieves but she also used her skills to talk one of the young men into giving up his life of petty crime.

A city of crimes

Kabul has become a city of crime and a dangerous place. Kubra was walking through her community in District 13 with her friend Halima and a small group of women when 3 young men snatched Halima’s bag. The women were terrified and shocked into immobility, worried that the bag snatchers might be carrying guns and knives. But Kubra was undaunted and sprang into action.
When the women looked up, they were shocked to see Kubra running after the young men shouting “Give it back, give that bag back”

The young man with the bag looked over his shoulder, saw Kubra still running after them and dropped the bag in the street; then all three disappeared into the crowd

Kubra finds the thieves

Kubra returned the bag to its owner but she could not give up there. She has been tackling difficult issues in communities for some years now so she started looking for the bag snatchers. She talked to local shopkeepers and people on the street until she had some information. She then arranged a community meeting for the next day

to ask for help in finding the thieves’ parents.
“I felt so sad about the thieves”, said Kubra. “They were so young, 20 or 22 years. Maybe they just need someone to show them the right path. If I could talk to them, I might be able to change their minds.”

Her efforts paid off and she found the parents of one of the boys. Naturally they were ashamed and wanted to punish the boy but she asked them not to. Instead, she convinced them that they should reason with him and support him to earn an honest living using the talents God had given him.

She talked to the boy and encouraged him to start working in a shop or as a mechanic and to save his small earnings to start his own business. She talked about the blessings that a lawful sustenance would bring into his life if he abandoned a life of crime.

“I can’t understand where I got the courage to run after those thieves and I wonder why I decided to talk to them,” said Kubra, “but maybe it is all because of the confidence I found in my own skills after Zardozi started working with me and helped me become a more effective community activist. This has helped me find the courage to lead change in my community.”

For more stories of courageous Zardozi activists leading change…


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45 women and men benefit from working in Farida’s tailoring workshop

Leading is a difficult task no matter what you lead a community or a business it always requires you to be proactive and caring.”  Said Mrs. Farida Sarabi.

Mrs. Farida is an active entrepreneur who has created many employment opportunities for both women and men in Mazar-e-Sharif city by establishing a tailoring workshop. Both female and male employees in that workshop have a common characteristic in that they are the only breadwinner of their family. Mrs. Farida has hired them and trained them to be professional tailors so that they can earn enough money to support their families and even improve their lives. Near 70% of her employees are female and they earn monthly AFN 10,000 to 15,000.

Farida recently opened a new workshop in Kabul and hired more employees to work on contracts with garments retailers. Mrs. Farida considers

leadership and management skills as key to success and she has been an eager student of the leadership and business training sessions she has attended. She encourages all the women studying with her to be determined about their business goals and to make use of all the opportunities provided to them for their empowerment.

“I was lucky to find Zardozi to support me in all aspects of my business. Zardozi not only strengthens women’s skills but also helps us to finance our requirements.” Farida said as she has bought some equipment for her workshop using Zardozi microfinance support.


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Nafisa talks about the impact of technology on her business development

Mrs Nafisa is a Zardozi client living in Mazar-e-Sharif city who recently decided to improve her marketing. She created a Facebook page to reach out to new customers and she printed business cards and brochures to distribute to target customers in the city.

Marketing through the internet is not usual amongst Afghan female business owners particularly in they are living in a conservative community. There are many reasons for this, social media is risky for women as there are many predatory men who prey on female social media users. This means that family members usually discourage women from using social media. In addition, women are not usually skilled in IT and internet access is costly and services are patchy at best.

Zardozi M&E staff have been supporting Nafisa. When they dropped into her shop in mid-December she said she was very satisfied with her achievements during the last month. She mentioned that since posting content on her Facebook page her customer numbers increased and continues to increase day by day. It has even helped her to get in contact with previous customers from years ago with whom she had lost contact when they got married and moved away.  Now they travel to her shop regularly to place orders with her and they are delighted with her designs and her stylish garments.

Nafisa talked about the difficulties she faced in starting a Facebook page and in getting her cards printed. She explained that her family had been vehemently opposed to her seeking any publicity fearing for her safety.

“From the moment you share your idea, others may oppose or even stop you, but if you believe that this is going to bring a great change, you have to stand for it and I am sure you will soon realize that it’s worth all that struggle,” Nafisa said.

With a lot of effort, she finally succeeded in convincing her family and gained their support for managing her Facebook page. She takes their ideas while posting a sample of her work or quoting a price for her services. Nafisa’s younger daughter was the one who suggested printing business cards and brochures for advertising her business in other areas of the city.

“I think it is a very useful way to know what the requirements of customers are and what they think about our services.” Said Nafisa about her Facebook page. She also added that it’s more comfortable chatting with customers in private about prices.


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Women in Jalalabad contribute to domestic products and urban development

It brings us great joy to see clients with successful businesses, women who have grown from where they were a few years ago to where they are now – more confident and courageous than ever. They are breadwinners for their families, they pay for their children’s education, they take part in community problem solving, and altogether they are strongly empowered.

Activist women in Jalalabad were asked by their community to persuade the authorities to build a clinic in their village. Together the women submitted petitions to numerous Government offices, cajoled community leaders into giving their support, and finally found a philanthropist to donate a piece of land for the clinic. Everyone has now agreed and the clinic will be constructed in the New Year.

women are strongly motivated to set up a business to provide employment for the women in their communities who are less able to risk a business start-up. Mrs. Marina and Mrs. Naweeda are two women from Jalalabad province with strong entrepreneurship skills who recently set up new businesses employing many women from their communities.

Naweeda established a small workshop producing washing liquid which she sells locally at a price that is competitive with what is already on sale. She does her production in a corner of the yard of the family home. She employs three of her neighbours and her husband helps them by carrying the product to local shops or selling it directly in the market and by purchasing the raw materials.

Naweeda earns AFN 20,000 every month out of which she pays for the children’s schooling and other household expenses. She plans to expand her business so every month she puts something aside ready to invest in bigger and better equipment in the future.

“I dream that one day Afghanistan will have modern factories that equal those in other richer countries. It is a great joy to me to think that with my little effort here I am advancing the economic development of my country” Naweeda says.

Recently, Marina established a tailoring workshop and hired 8 women from her community to work with her. Long before she starting her workshop she used to tailor for herself and her family and she never thought in those days that she could earn enough to employ others through tailoring.

When she joined Zardozi she came to understand from training and from seeing others expanding their businesses that she too could start her own business. Marina is encouraged to find that not only is she actually a skilled tailor she is also a capable businesswoman.

“I am very happy that after many challenges finally, I have been able to turn my ordinary tailoring into a wonderful profession,” said Marina. She also added that she loves her work and she is happy seeing others satisfied with her products.

In her workshop,  Marine and her employees work with velvet fabric to make festive and highly decorated garments and bed covers. They also design and make traditional bodice pieces and sleeve decoration pieces which are currently much in demand in the market.

“My customers used to travel to a neighboring country to buy party dresses and bed covers, but now they can get them from my workshop. It saves them time and money.” Said Marina

 

 

 


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Mrs Salima built a well and started a water supply business

Salima brought water to her own family and her neighbors which not only solved their water problem but also initiated a sustained source of income for her family. She noticed that her neighbors were having difficulty accessing water, having to travel a considerable distance daily.  She decided to turn those difficulties into a business opportunity. She knew the water problem could be solved if she had enough money to dig a well for the people in her area, so she thought of the Zardozi loan.

Since Salima is one of our active clients in Mazar-e-Sharif and has a high credit Zardozi provided her with a large loan sufficient to cover most of the cost of digging a large well. When the well was dug, Salima laid in pipes to take the water to the surrounding houses.

Now her system supplies water to almost 70 families who are happy with the amount she is charging for the water as not only has it reduced the cost of carrying water to their homes but they now also have access to water in their homes at any time during the day.

Salima is paying back her loan and once this loan is repaid she plans to expand this business to more areas.

Salima says that she owes her success to her husband as he supported her idea and encouraged her to start this business. She also thanks Zardozi for supporting her in developing a start-up plan and providing her with a loan. “We all have good business ideas that could bring positive changes in our lives, but some of us never take the steps to actualize them because we may be afraid of loss or not receiving support,” Salima said. She believes that if women who have business ideas can put their fears aside and express their thoughts, they will already have taken the first step towards actualizing their dreams.

Salima is a middle-aged woman who is the mother of four children and lives with her family in Mazar-e-Sharif. Earlier before the starting water supply business, she used to do tailoring in her home and since that time, she had the dream of managing a big business that could be both profitable for her and beneficial for her society, so she thought that was the perfect time to start this business and follow her dream.


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Zardozi celebrated its achievements with its friends

Zardozi celebrated its achievements in an appreciation ceremony held on Thursday, November 5, 2020, in Cinema Zainab Hall located in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Zardozi took this opportunity to thank and appreciate its friends for their excellent cooperation and continual supports over the past years. In this ceremony, Zardozi had the honor to welcome valued guests from international organizations, parliament members, and ministries.

Mrs. Hasina Aimaq, Zardozi’s Program Director, has introduced the Kadars (Community Women Activists) to audiences and talked about their achievements and roles in solving urban and legal problems of their communities. “We have 22 Kadars in four regions whose impact is so great on the community they live with”. She mentioned that Zardozi is flexible in its programs because its objective is to reduce poverty and empower women economically, so Zardozi provides variable services according to the women’s capabilities and demands.

Mrs. Hasina Safi, Minister of Women’s Affairs said, “I would like to firstly congratulate Zardozi on its successful strategy workshop, and then, I would like to express my happiness of seeing Nisfe Jahan’s logo beside the Zardozi’s logo in this ceremony. She talked about the areas Zardozi and its Kadars can cooperate with MoWA in future projects. She also said that her goal is to serve Afghan women and she will do anything in her power for women.

Dr. Shinkai Karokhail, Parliament Member mentioned the Women Empowerment as a common goal for all-powerful women and appreciated Zardozi for its effective programs in the economic empowerment of Afghan women. She encouraged women to use all empowerment opportunities to become independent and gain authority in the decisions made in their families. She has also emphasized on political participation of women in political issues. “Women need to have a strong network, and I appreciate Zardozi for its outstanding service of creating social networks for women. I believe our network is our strength.” Her part of words. She spoke to the audience that Zardozi not only provides services but also keeps a beautiful part of our tradition alive. “Embroideries show our traditional culture in textiles, so I request Zardozi to double its efforts for the preservation of this treasure.”

Mr. Ahmad Riaz Sediqi, the Director of Non-Governmental Organizations at the Ministry of Economy, started his speech by appreciating the Minister of Women Affairs for her success in a very challenging task of adding the names of mothers to national identity cards. He mentioned Zardozi as one of the NGOs with excellent budget management. He added that Zardozi creates significant results against its given budget allocated for the economic empowerment of women.

Zardozi’s Program Director thanked the minister of women’s affairs for her supports by presenting her with a statue of appreciation.

She also thanked Zardozi’s donors for their precious supports that helped Zardozi to create such excellent results. “We convey our sincere thanks to our donors by presenting them with this statue. Your supports helped us to receive all these appreciations today from honored guests.” She said.

In this ceremony, Zardozi appreciated its staff for their high understanding of responsibilities and duties, especially during the recent pandemic. The program director mentioned Zardozi as a leading organization with a low employee turnover rate as Zardozi has committed employees for some of whom have been with Zardozi for more than eight years. Zardozi’s achievements are undoubtedly the result of the contribution of its dedicated employees who deserve every praise for their hard work and commitment.


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Zardozi’s strategy workshop in November 2020

Zardozi has completed a successful strategy workshop in early November 2020 in which representative of Zardozi’s beneficiaries presented their issues and opinions regarding the strategic direction of Nisfe Jahan (a grassroots women’s support organization that partners with Zardozi).

The participants included Zardozi clients who manage community business centers and Zardozi activist women from all four regions, together with Zardozi regional and operational managers develop strategies and plans regarding the structure of Nisfe Jahan and its services for beneficiaries, financial planning, and organizational development. This was a productive strategy workshop helping Zardozi to gain an insight into the views of clients and to develop plans and strategies that are both inclusive and effective.

Zardozi owes much of its success to a policy of inclusive strategy development. These annual strategy workshops are a powerful tool in ensuring that crucial strategic plans are made in collaboration with those who will be affected by them.

To ensure that participants are well prepared and able to understand the issues under discussion, Zardozi provides support to a wide variety of materials in these workshops. Although the majority of participants do not have even primary education they are nevertheless skilled and intelligent women and Zardozi values their input. Additionally, Zardozi runs mini-workshops during the main workshop regarding updates in reporting systems or the provision of new services.

In this strategy workshop, Zardozi focused more on the future of Nisfe Jahan and strategies to strengthen institutional development and autonomy. Additionally, the workshop sought to find ways to make Nisfe Jahan more sustainable and less donor-dependent to protect its valuable impact on the empowerment of its beneficiaries.


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Khalida runs a literacy course in her community

Mrs. Khalida is a Zardozi client in Kabul province who was fortunate enough to obtain her high school diploma before the Taliban invaded Afghanistan.

Mrs. Khalida believes that every woman regardless of her age has the right to learn to read and write. She says that although now we have more girls attending schools compared to the past two decades, still many women in Afghanistan have not had the opportunity to go to school and are now illiterate.

“My eyes sparkle with joy when I see an old lady reading a street address sign or an invitation letter in front of her family members.” She said. In her opinion, all educated girls and women should motivate illiterate women to start taking literacy courses, or at least teach them at home so that there are more literate women in the future.

Since she is so interested in women’s education she takes every opportunity to teach illiterate women; she teaches her neighbors and relatives whenever she meets them. When she joined the Community Business Center in Kabul, she noticed that some other clients had difficulty reading numbers and writing down the size of clothes so she decided to teach them numbers and words.

When Zardozi’s team came to know about Khalida’s efforts, they decided to provide her with teaching materials and also give free books to her students. The team has also appreciated Mrs. Khalida in a ceremony to launch her literacy course and promised to provide free books for any future classes. Two community activists participated in the opening ceremony encouraging women to attend regularly and be serious in their studies looking at this as a golden opportunity towards a better future. They said that although it is understood that learning is difficult for older people if they make learning their priority then they would succeed. One of the activists explained how she had struggled to become literate herself with her youngest daughter as her teacher.

They described quoted the famous proverb ‘knowledge is power’ and emphasized how knowledge can help women to be more independent and more involved in family decisions.


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Adila achieved the dream of having her own tailoring workshop

“When we are in the position of teaching others, we eventually realize our shortcomings and the points in which we lack the expertise that need more practice. I found this reality while I was teaching others how to sew and stitch. We learn more when we teach” Said Adila.

It has been 10 years that Mrs. Adila started tailoring and when she decided to start tailoring she never has thought that one day she would be in the place where she is now. Adila used to go to her neighbor’s house where all were professional tailors and she was just permitted to watch them working until she could pay the tuition fees and learn basics. After several months Adila learned basic skills but she wanted to learn a little more professional things because she felt she had more aptitude to become professional than what tailors were thinking of her.

The only missing thing was the money to pay the fee for advanced tailoring this appeared like a wall between her dream and her poor financial status.

One morning when she woke up she felt motivated it was like a voice in her head was encouraging her to go and talk to the tailors but at the same time, she could hear another voice telling her “no… this is not the way you go because you don’t have enough money and you are not brave enough to talk to the tailors” finally she decided to gather her courage and try to convince the tailors to accept the reduced fee that she was able to afford.

“It was early morning in winter that I run to a neighboring house. Everybody was shocked and said that I was looking totally different. I don’t know what the reason was but everyone including me could realize how motivated and courageous I became” said Adila. She described that memorable day by telling us what she could remember.

“I remembered a lady came to order a garment just the day before and after giving her size to the tailors she left, as it was almost evening so the tailors left the cloth away to sew it next day. When I entered their home I saw the cloth and without talking any words I started working on that. I could remember that I cut the cloth very nicely as all were praising me and clapping for the nice work I did.” Adila shared.

That day onwards tailors decided to teach her advance tailoring and from that day not only Adila was changed but also her trainers changed as they were impressed by her courage and efforts. When she became a professional tailor she was very keen to teach other interested women tailoring and help them to become professional ones, but lack of funds has pulled her back from her dream as she was not able to save enough money for opening a workshop. Since the year 2018 that Adila joined Zardozi she benefited not only from business development trainings but also she could take a loan. Finally, she managed to establish her workshop where now she can provide tailoring training courses.

She is now 40 years old living in Mazar-e- sharif and is the mother of 6 children, four young daughters, and two sons. More than 8 women are working along with her in the workshop, and she earns an average income of AFN 15000 in a month. She enjoys working as a trainer and teaching other women tailoring in her workshop.

“I thank Zardozi for supporting women in business” were Adila’s parting words.


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