Celebrating Afghan Women Entrepreneurs

The joint exhibition by Alternative Development Unit of Country Office in Afghanistan (COAFG), Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI) was held on 16th-17th March (just before the COVID 19 outbreak) at the UN compound in Kabul. The event was second in the series of exhibitions planned to promote women entrepreneurs and to reduce their reliance and involvement in illicit crop cultivation and related activities. Previous exhibition was held in July 2019 and was a big success in terms of sales, direct market access for women entrepreneurs, long term orders for some of the entrepreneurs, direct interaction with the customers and discuss ways to integrate counter-narcotic action into AWCCI’s and other UN agencies’.  Encouraged AWCCI members and the participants expressed interest in holding such exhibitions more often.

Addressing the opiate problem in Afghanistan remains a joint responsibility, among all the actors sharing this concern, women have a unique role of shaping the future of their children for the better or worse through their stand concerning illicit crop cultivation. The event co-organized by UNODC and AWCCI raised visibility and awareness about alternative development, employment of women recovering from drug addiction, skills and capacity development of women for income generation, self-employment and entrepreneurship.

I sold most of the pickles that the women’s group I work with produce. It makes me happy that foreigners like our products. - Bibi Hasina, Kabul Province

Twenty-five women entrepreneurs from five provinces - Kabul, Mazar, Bamyan, Nangarhar, and Badakshan participated in the exhibition to display and sell their wares. The exhibition had a wide range of products- handicrafts, carpets, jewelry, saffron, organic hand-made soaps, beauty products, dried fruits, jams and pickles and provided an opportunity to interact with the customers directly, understand the market needs, and the price points of their products.

Sales worth $6820 were made in two days.

“This lively display of colours and people have definitely lifted our mood”; “Great to meet the makers behind these exquisite products”.

Buyer at the UN compound

The exhibition was worth all the effort, despite it getting postponed twice in last six months because of increasing insecurity, the cancellation by management eight hours before the exhibition was to start, fear of COVID 19 looming, and putting last minute strict mitigation measures in place (separate washing and ablution facilities for the exhibitors, hand sanitizers and rubber gloves at all the stalls,) reducing the number of exhibitors by 30% and exhibition days by half !

‘These exhibitions are always a good idea to enable us, especially International staff to see what is available outside in the community.’ said one of the buyers.

We received positive feedback from the buyers and the sellers alike for more such events at the UN compound, especially, with staff being in lockdown and complete restriction on movement outside other than for business meetings.

Some images from the exhibition