Afghan Businesswomen Highlight Role of Entrepreneurship in Human Development
In a first of its kind assembly, over 300 women came together to find solutions for increasing women’s role in businesses and entrepreneurship development in Afghanistan, here today. The assembly of women entrepreneurs was convened by the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Equality Project.
Throughout the day, several successful Afghan businesswomen presented their initiatives. A round table seminar involving multiple partners including women entrepreneurs, representatives from ACCI, the Government of Afghanistan and international organizations was held on the occasion. The seminar resulted in developing a position paper that outlines the challenges women face in the business sector and the way forward. Some of the proposals put forth in the paper included increasing women’s role in business, minimizing the threats hindering businesses run by women, prioritization of funding for women entrepreneurs, women’s capacity development in relation to financial services, entrepreneurship, soft skills as well as increasing the overall role of women in business.
Speaking at the Opening of the Conference, Chief Executive of ACCI, Mr. Mohammad Qurban Haqjo said, “Traditionally, Afghan women have been involved in sectors such as carpet-weaving, artisanal crafts and agriculture. In the past decade Afghan women have shown they are able to play a leading role in formal businesses like international trade, construction, manufacturing, transportation and business consultancy as well. This augurs well for the future of Afghan women entrepreneurs.”
In his message to the Conference, the UNDP Country Director, Mr. Alvaro Rodriguez said, “UNDP Afghanistan considers gender equality and women’s economic empowerment as an imperative for accelerating and broadening progress toward inclusive and sustainable economic development.” UNDP cooperation with ACCI is in line with UNDP’s involvement in promoting increased economic opportunities for women, including the work on strengthening the national policy framework for women’s economic empowerment, support to private sector development and promotion of women’s entrepreneurship, expanding livelihood opportunities and diversification of women’s professional training.
An exhibition showcasing around 25 women-led companies’ products and handicrafts was jointly inaugurated by Mr. Haqjo, ACCI Chief Executive and Ms. Fulya Vekiloglu, Program Manager for UNDP’s Gender Equality Project.
Ms. Kamila Sidiqi, a woman entrepreneur attending the conference who runs the Kaweyan group of companies and has 150 employees working for her, described lack of security, cultural barriers, lack of trust in funding for women as well as lack of professional capacity as the main challenges facing women entrepreneurs .
Women’s economic empowerment plays a crucial role in a family’s survival. Based on research done by USAID in 2010 a woman’s economic empowerment brings changes in her status in the family, increases her decision making power, improves here shared responsibilities with her spouse and improves the living standard of a family. The main challenges facing women are cultural disadvantages, financial limitations, production challenges, hardships in selling and marketing, as well as a lack of institutional support. According to a survey done by UN Women in 2010, only 5% of the businesses in the country are owned by women.
Mr. Rodriguez expressed the hope that the Conference would meaningfully contribute to wider efforts to ensure transformational changes for achieving improved development, security and human rights outcomes for women of Afghanistan.
UNDP believes that poverty reduction as well as gender equality is inevitable unless women’s economic empowerment gets on the prioritized agenda of the government agencies and the international community.
Kumar Tiku, UNDP Communications Specialist, Email: email@example.com
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Hashim Rasouli, ACCI Communications Director: Email: email@example.com