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.