Start small and dream big. This is Masooma Ibrahimi’s plan for her tiny tailoring shop tucked away in rural Afghanistan.
“It’s my dream to have a big company selling clothes all over Afghanistan and someday all over the world, so I can employ lots of poor women who need this work, and together we can teach others, too,” explains Ibrahimi, 25, while maneuvering her solar-powered sewing machine in a village outside Bamiyan.
Mohammad Elyas Haidari, a business development officer with the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Program (AREDP), says there are countless women like Ibrahimi with this drive to succeed. All they need is more help with concrete business plans, advice on marketing, strategies for small business loans, and other technical assistance.
“This is why we’re here,” said Haidari. “We want to work with these people to help them identify opportunities to profit and grow their businesses. This will put these ladies, their families, and this country back on its feet.”
About 80% of Afghanistan’s population lives in rural areas and is dependent on agriculture and livestock occupations that contribute an estimated 53% of gross domestic product.
Ibrahimi’s business is one of the nearly 200 small and medium enterprises under AREDP, which is part of the World Bank’s effort to encourage more commercially oriented, off-farm employment that increases job opportunities and incomes for people in Afghanistan.
To date, AREDP, which is co-financed by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, is working in 341 villages. There are more than 2,500 savings groups and 87 enterprise groups, with over 31,000 active members (47% female). These members have collectively saved more than Afs 35 million, which they loan to each other. From December 2011 to March 2012, the number of borrowers increased from 1,014 to 2,550.