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Women in Afghanistan: The Future ‘Depends on Them’

In the face of deepened discrimination and operational constraints, Afghanistan’s women entrepreneurs are resiliently navigating through hurdles to sustain their businesses. A recent study conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sheds light on the challenges faced by Afghan women and the critical role they play in shaping the country’s future.

Deepened Discrimination

The research revealed that Afghanistan’s women entrepreneurs face a myriad of hurdles and high costs while conducting business. Among the over 3,000 women surveyed, 41 per cent found themselves plunged into debt due to the combination of discrimination and operational constraints. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of respondents reported severe movement restrictions, highlighting the pervasive gender inequalities in Afghan society.

Challenges and Resilience

Despite the obstacles, Afghan women are finding innovative ways to overcome challenges. Entrepreneurship has emerged as a lifeline, with 80 per cent of women-led enterprises relying on their business revenues as their primary source of income. These businesses not only sustain families but also create essential job opportunities for other women, contributing to the economic empowerment of Afghan women.

UNDP’s Support

Recognizing the pivotal role of women in Afghanistan’s economy, UNDP, alongside its partners, has been actively supporting micro and small businesses. Through various initiatives, including providing financial support and training, UNDP has assisted 75,000 businesses, which, in turn, have created employment opportunities for over 900,000 individuals. These efforts not only stimulate economic growth but also foster gender equality and women’s empowerment in the country.

A Story of Fortitude and Hope

Stephen Rodriques, UNDP Resident Representative in Afghanistan, emphasized the indispensable role of women in sustaining local economies and households. He lauded the courage and resilience displayed by Afghan women in overcoming adversities, describing their journey as a story of fortitude and hope. Rodriques stressed the importance of international support in amplifying the voices of Afghan women and investing in their future, emphasizing that the prosperity of Afghanistan hinges on the empowerment of its women.

As Afghanistan grapples with socio-economic challenges, the resilience and determination of its women serve as a beacon of hope. By addressing the systemic barriers faced by women entrepreneurs and providing them with the necessary support, the international community can contribute to building a more inclusive and prosperous future for Afghanistan. Indeed, the empowerment of women is not just a matter of gender equality but a prerequisite for the country’s sustainable development and progress.

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