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.