Nekbakht Ibrahimi is 43, and lives in the province of Bamyan in central Afghanistan. Mountains cover 90% of the province and the long, cold winters last for six months. Having stopped her studies after primary school, Nekbakht wondered what kind of vocation she could go into, to help support herself and her family of 11: “I always saw women working in different areas such as teacher, nurse, handicrafts, therefore, I was thinking what to do in order to support my family.”
In 2014, in partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation, the Bamyan Municipality and the Women Economic Empowerment Rural Enterprise Development Programme (previously known as the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Programme) established a women’s handicraft bazaar in town, to provide opportunities for female micro-entrepreneurs and link them to traders and buyers through exhibitions and trade shows. When Nekbakht learned about this project, she consulted her family about the idea, and decided to start her own handicraft business: “When the craft bazaar was under construction, I decided to rent a shop.” In 2017, her business earned a total revenue of 50,000 AFG (US$ 670). Customers included an increasing number of tourists, as well as family, relatives and friends. By 2018, sales had increased by more than seven-fold, to 380,000 AFG (US$ 5,100), with a profit of 60,000 AFG (US$ 800).
The income that Nekbakht generates now with her handicraft shop allows her to put her children through school. She says: “Now, I earn sufficient income to support my family. I am very glad that my family feels proud of my business.”