With the support of World Vision, women in Badghis province, Afghanistan will have their own market for the first time. This market was inaugurated by Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the current President of Afghanistan on the 10th of December 2017.
Due to cultural barriers women have been financially dependent either on their fathers or their husbands, not able to attend or trade at markets. As such, their social footprint has been incredibly small, constraints by dominant social norms dictated the permissible actions of girls and women. In Badghis however, changes are occurring throughout communities, led by community leaders, government and religious leaders to address these social norms and enable women to more freely conduct livelihood activities that will benefit their families and children.
Afghan women still remain in the periphery with limited access to productive resources. As a result, they are subjected to different types of social and economic exclusions even though 48.3 per cent of Afghanistan’s population is comprised of women who play a primary role in improving food security.
Badghis is also one of the most food insecure provinces in Afghanistan. The National Risks and Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA) of 2011-2012 acknowledges that 40 per cent of female-headed households are food insecure as compared against 27 per cent of male-headed households.
Through a programme funded by the Australian Government, DFAT, World Vision works in Badghis to increase the resilience of communities, specifically woman-headed households, to build opportunities for developing sustainable incomes.
In 2016 alone, 20,717 women, including heads of households, were supported with food production capacity development, including poultry rearing, beekeeping, vegetable farming and other income-generating activities such as soap making and baking. The programme team linked the 33 woman producers to markets beyond their village boundaries to ensure good prices for their products.
The idea of developing a market for women in Badghis was brought about by the programme team in order to create a safe and potentially profitable opportunity for woman entrepreneurs in Badghis to sell their products and gain exposure to the larger markets and customer bases in the province.
The team discussed the idea with the District Governor, Women’s Affairs Director, Department of Labour and Social Affairs, Municipality Department, and Badghis National Trades Union to reach an agreement. Additionally, the Department of Religious Affairs was also consulted about establishing a market for women in order to reduce any potential tensions around women’s social activity and to situate the idea within a framework of Islam.
Tariq Aziz, World Vision Marketing Specialist, says ‘the Mayor [of Badghis] allocated a building with two floors in one of the best areas of Qala-e-Naw city to establish the women’s market. Eighty vendors/traders will have their own shops. Women can rent a shop in this building [and] the rent fee will be much less expensive compared to men’s shops’. He adds that the women’s market would be an unprecedented accomplishment in Badghis province where neither woman-run markets, let alone businesses, previously existed.
Maryam, 30, one of the programme beneficiaries who sells baked goods, like pastries and cookies, states that she has high hopes for the market: ‘I can bake different cookies now which I couldn’t before. Most of my customers are neighbours and relatives. I usually have about 15 customers a month with an estimated income of US$66 [in that time]. Most of the women in Badghis don’t know about my business, so if I have a shop in the women’s market, I will have more customers’.
To address the challenges of cultural barriers and to ensure women’s participation in the initiative, World Vision has utilised different World Vision programme models such as Community Change and Celebrating Families, which have given voice to members of the community and with the guidance of religious leaders, helped to expose the misconceptions and false beliefs often held in traditional villages regarding the role of women in social activities.
According to Maryam ‘My husband agreed and allowed me to have a shop in the women's market. He shared the issue with a Mullah in our mosque who said that since my activities are based on Islam there are no concerns if I have a shop’.
Some beneficiaries believe that having an all-woman market in Badghis province will allow them to leave their homes to shop. ‘My husband always does the shopping’, says Fatima, 27, who has come to Maryam’s house to buy cookies for her children. ‘I seldom join him or go alone to buy [things]. I don’t feel comfortable going shopping as all the shopkeepers are men’.
Using local TV Channels, various social media platforms and sermons by religious leaders, World Vision is spreading information about the initiative and seeking greater exposure to encourage women to submit their applications for a space at the market. Mr. Aziz, states ‘we have received tens of applications so far which was beyond our expectations. We are very optimistic and hope to [really establish] the market in the coming months’.
The team is working to make the market more convenient and well-rounded so that when women enter they can find all of the necessities like food supplies, clothing and stationary/school materials for children.
Today, this market is active where the majority of female sellers are World Vision Afghanistan producer and saving groups members who today are able to earn an income of US$176 per month through selling of jam, pickles, soap and different types of cookies.
World Vision Afghanistan is committed to gender equity, which means fair treatment for both women and men according to their respective needs. Gender equity improves women’s status in society and reduces poverty and vulnerability to injustice. In order to achieve greater justice in gender relations in Afghanistan it is vital to address the restrictions that prevent women from accessing productive resources and economic opportunities.
It Takes A World
World Vision Afghanistan has launched World Vision’s global campaign ‘It takes a world to end violence against children’ here in this country. Through this important campaign we aim to address forced and child marriage in order to allow these girls to enjoy their childhood, but also to have the opportunity to go to school to help prepare them for a better future.