Posted by: kenwbudd | September 16, 2010

Afghan Women Battle Internal and External Hostility on their Path to Entrepreneurship

Afghan Women Battle Internal and External Hostility on their Path to Entrepreneurship

Women entrepreneurs face kidnapping, death threats and the constant fear of bombs when trying to open businesses in Afghanistan. Many women also lack a formal education after years of harsh Taliban rule that has kept them from taking formal roles in society.

These challenges and more have eroded Afghan women’s confidence and fueled uncertainty about their ability to be independent as they endeavor to launch and grow successful businesses.

When 23-year-old Masooma Habibi first wanted to open a business in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, she thought the only way it would be possible is if she had male business partners.

Yet when she was looking for such partners to turn her idea of starting an Internet installation company into reality, she found that nobody wanted to work with her because she was a woman. “I thought I cannot do it by myself, I have no experience and everyone I turned to for help refused,” she says.

That lack of support made Habibi realize that if her dreams of starting a business were to come true, she would have to go it alone. “I have had to overcome community backlash towards a woman working in Afghan society. I was depressed after my initial partners left me alone with a business before it had even started because they did not want a woman partner,” she says.

However, after Habibi was given the opportunity to join the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program run by the Thunderbird School of Management in Glendale, Ariz., and the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, her attitude slowly changed.

The 10-month training program in Kabul that graduated 54 students in early 2009 is one of several around the world working to improve business skills of women entrepreneurs. “I began to meet many women entrepreneurs with successful businesses who really encouraged me and overcame a lot of similar problems I was facing. I saw that they were helping make a difference in Afghan society,” says Habibi.



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