MAZAR-E-SHARIF CITY, Balkh Province – In a brightly lit basement, over 30 women are carefully folding and sewing pieces of fabric to produce fashionable garments for men, women, and children. Their products are uniquely successful in the market, often attracting more customers than similar garments imported from overseas. This is the Balkh Women's Bright Future Social Association.
Established in 2011 by a group of 10 women activists for the purpose of empowering women to make a livelihood without depending on others, the association is located in the Kart-e-Brishna area of Mazar-e-Sharif city in northern Balkh Province. It currently has more than 250 members. The association also undertakes capacity building activities, including literacy courses for those who cannot read or write.
Bakhtawar Azimi, 18, a member of the association, is happy to work at the sewing workshop. “I could never imagine that one day I would be able to work and earn a living but now I can do that. I learned how to sew and now I make money through it,” she says.
The association has been able to improve its activities aimed at empowering women like Bakhtawar as a result of support from the Afghanistan New Market Development Project (ANMDP). The project is operated by the Ministry of Commerce and Industries and funded by the World Bank. In 2013, ANMDP enabled the association to offer training opportunities to 90 members in tailoring, needlework, and business communication in English through six-month programs.
Bakhtawar is one of the many young women who, after learning a vocation through ANMD training, has been made self-sufficient, earning an average of 3,000 Afghanis ($50) a month to support her family. Now qualified, she works as a tailor in the Balkh Women's Bright Future Social Association.
For Soghra Haidari, 18, another association member, the training in tailoring was an opportunity to invest on her education: “I graduated from high school a year ago but was unable to continue my education in the university because of financial reasons. Now, I am satisfied with my job here because I can support myself to pursue higher education and also my family.”