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Women

Afghan Female Entrepreneurs: 'I'm Determined to Get Back on my Feet'

November 29, 2021
Behnam Gholipour
3 min read
Law student Hamideh Hosseini, 23, only opened her cafe in western Kabul last year
Law student Hamideh Hosseini, 23, only opened her cafe in western Kabul last year
Hosseini's women-led business was popular with students but has now shut down under the Taliban
Hosseini's women-led business was popular with students but has now shut down under the Taliban
Kameleh Kiarang Sadat ran a handicrafts store that also employed mostly women
Kameleh Kiarang Sadat ran a handicrafts store that also employed mostly women
The shop, Golngar, has now closed while its founder and owner has fled to Pakistan due to her civic activities
The shop, Golngar, has now closed while its founder and owner has fled to Pakistan due to her civic activities
Golngar's bright and eye-catching clothes found buyers all over the world
Golngar's bright and eye-catching clothes found buyers all over the world

More than 100 days have passed since the Taliban swept back to power in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands have fled the country, many of them women, some of whom ran their own businesses before the Taliban clamped down anew on all aspects of women’s participation in public life.

Hamideh Hosseini is 23 years old and had only set up her café in western Kabul, called Lily, in 2020. It cost her 350,000 afghanis (about US$3,700) to set up. Apart from financial independence and giving students a place to spend their free time, she says, main motivation was to create jobs for other women. All the staff were female.

"When the Taliban came,” Hosseini told IranWire from Pakistan, “we had to close the door of the restaurant forever. Then I left Afghanistan.

“All my dreams were dashed. I’d wanted to prove that women could be the best in business. We attract a lot of customers because of our cooking, we were enjoying our work, everything was going well. Suddenly, on August 15, the Taliban came and everything fell apart in a quite incredible way."

While running the café, Hosseini had been in her third year studying law and political science at a private university in Kabul. The doors to the university closed to her at the same time as those of her café. No-one was willing to buy the business, she said, and in the end she left all but her most basic possessions behind in Afghanistan. “I’m still determined to get back on my feet,” she said. “I haven’t given up on my goals.”

Kameleh Kiarang Sadat, an economics graduate, is another former entrepreneur who had to relocate to Pakistan. In late 2018, she established a handicrafts store, Golngar, in Kabul to promote Afghan fashion and tradition. “Our economy has been dealt a serious blow since the rise of the Taliban,” she said. “All businesspeople lost money. I had to close the store because apart from business, I’d been involved in civic activities.

"I had no hope of living in Afghanistan [under the Taliban]. Now the labor market is stagnant; of the 80 women who worked with us just 10 stayed on, and are mostly the breadwinners for their families. We couldn’t provide for them anymore and I’m not even in touch with them. It’s a horrible feeling.”

Golngar’s crafts weren’t just sold in Afghanistan. The company made embroidered clothes, scarves and shoes whose vibrant colors and charm attracted buyers in Asian countries and around the world. But no more will follow now. Hamideh and Kamaleh are just two examples of successful Afghan female entrepreneurs whose fortunes changed with the hijacking of their country. There will be thousands more.

Related coverage:

Displaced Afghan Families Selling Their Children to Keep Warm

No Women, No Satire, No Foreigners: The Taliban's New Guidelines for Journalists

Afghan Female Martial Artists Train in the Shadow of the Taliban

Afghan Ex-Servicewomen in Hiding After Female Police Officer's Murder

Protesting Women of Herat and Kabul: We Will Never Submit to the Taliban

"No Girl Should Feel Like Me": Young Afghan Women Locked Out of Education

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