Dubai exhibition: Businesswomen from Afghanistan push to enter int’l markets

Dozens of Afghan businesswomen took part in an exhibition in Dubai remotely this week to promote their carpets, jewellery, dried fruit and other handmade goods as part of a push to access international markets after work options for women shrunk in Afghanistan under the Taliban administration.

The three-day exhibition, held at a hotel in Dubai and supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), began on Thursday (March 16) and includes 26 Afghan female-run businesses.

Due to the difficulty of getting visa and travel restrictions, the business owners joined via video link from Kabul, Reuters reported.

They said some restrictions on women in public life as well as the country’s struggling economy were hampering their businesses but they hoped to focus on expansion, including to international markets.

Rayhana Karim, from the Afghan’s Women’s Chamber of Commerce, attended the event in Dubai. She said they were working to create a brand for products — labelling them ‘Made by Afghan Women’ — to make it easier for consumers abroad wanting to support women’s rights to identify these items.

“The end consumers in Europe, the US, and UAE, they want to support Afghan women. We need to provide them with an opportunity to do that by creating a label called ‘Made by Afghan Women’, which is selling a product of quality, and not only selling a story,” Karim said as quoted by Reuters.

Before the exhibition started, the women business owners set up stalls at the UNDP compound in Kabul to showcase and sell their products to foreign workers.

Many women, they noted, had turned to self-employed activities which had stopped female employment figures falling further.

In addition to Taliban restrictions, the country’s economy has been severely hampered after foreign governments froze development aid, central bank assets and enforced sanctions on the banking sector.

The Taliban administration has banned many female non-governmental organization (NGO) workers and some Taliban-run ministries do not allow female staff to work in their offices.

Some authorities, including the Taliban’s commerce minister, have said they support female-led businesses and would like the international community to provide assistance to them.

“We lost our hope when Afghanistan collapsed, we thought Afghanistan would go back 20 years, but Afghan women are fighters, we will struggle and fight. We will never allow for the loss of our businesses to happen,” said Ziagul Jahani, one of the businesswomen participating in the exhibition.