“Making money with the work of our hands is difficult, but, we women have made it possible. We produce handmade jackets, curtains, pillow covers, traditional clothes, and furniture covers,” says Hadya.
Hadya Shahrani, a trained midwife from Badakshan province, is one of the many women who have benefitted from the activities of the LITACA Project. Since 2014, she has been managing a large number of local women who produce handicrafts and process dried fruits.
LITACA (Livelihood Improvement In Tajik-Afghan Cross-border Areas) is a Japanese-funded UNDP project which creates jobs and livelihoods for people in bordering communities of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It helps lift people out of poverty, by giving them the skills and access to run businesses themselves.
The project, now in its second phase, ‘LITACA II’, is implemented by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) in Afghanistan. The project aims to improve infrastructure and public services, open up employment opportunities, and promote cross-border trade.
Hadya started her business four years ago with AFN 20,000 (around USD 270). At first, she found it hard to make a profit, but she didn’t give up. “I was disappointed with the results at the beginning, but I forced myself to continue,” she says. “Now my monthly income has gone from zero to around AFN 200,000 [USD 2.5K].”
In Afghanistan, the number of male entrepreneurs far outweighs the number of female entrepreneurs. Hadya is therefore a rarity, and has created jobs for around 250 women. Most of Hadya’s employees are householder widows, who work from their homes. Hadya collects their products and sells them in specific shops in Faizabad city, the center of Badakhshan.
“These women earn up to 10,000 Afghanis [around USD 130] per month,” says Hadya, “which is a big boost to their incomes.”
Hadya explains how the LITACA project helped her to start and grow her business.
“LITACA organized an exhibition in Tajikistan and introduced our products there,” she says. “I have also been trained by LITACA in business and marketing management, which has helped a lot.”
Online marketing is a relative novelty in most parts of Afghanistan, but Hadya with her team run social media campaigns to attract customers. She has even attracted interest from high ranking government officials.
“My recent project was making covers for the governor’s house furniture,” she says. “Covering furniture with locally weaved cloth is a prestigious choice for people.”
As Hadya’s business grows, she will provide more work for people in her area, particularly those, such as women and people with disabilities, who are traditionally excluded from the workplace. If LITACA continues to produce successes like these, it can be scaled up and applied in other parts of Afghanistan, increasing incomes and economic resilience.
As a trained midwife, Hadya is used to bringing new life into the world. Surprisingly, she now finds that she has brought life into her community through thriving businesses.