Afghan women business owners and entrepreneurs have faced significant challenges in sustaining their businesses under the Taliban regime since August 2021. New edicts and decrees have severely restricted Afghan women’s access to public spaces and foreign markets, making it increasingly difficult for women to showcase and sell their crafts.
In December 2022, the Taliban issued a decree prohibiting women from working with non-profit organizations – (NGOs), adding to the numerous limitations and bans to shut women out of public life. The Taliban has also imposed bans on women’s movement, including limitations on how far they can travel and the means of transportation they can use. Taxis have been instructed not to transport women without a close male family member. Women are also not allowed to go to parks where some Afghan women entrepreneurs used to have stalls and sold homemade items. Women are not allowed to go to gyms either.
Despite these pervasive restrictions, Afghan women continue to demonstrate resilience. In Bamiyan city, restaurateur Bakhtawar Mahdawi has boldly resisted the Taliban’s assault on female entrepreneurship. Her famed Shahmama restaurant is located near a popular tourist route in Central Afghanistan’s Bamyan, has witnessed increased profits the past few years with the growth of tourism in the area, despite the challenges of travel.
Although Bakhtawar is not allowed to personally manage her restaurant under Taliban rule, she often visits her restaurant to ensure its smooth operation and plans to expand her business by opening a second restaurant.
“I feel good coming here and seeing that a lady manages this restaurant,” said Laila Haidari, a regular diner and resident from Bamiyan province. Bakhtawar’s work provides for her family and community, while serving as a living reminder of the resilience of Afghan women in the face of the Taliban’s oppression.
According to a report of the Afghanistan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, prior to the Taliban takeover, there were 2,471 formal and licensed businesses owned and run by Afghan women. Under the Taliban, half of the formal businesses have already closed and the other half is in danger of closure as well.
The Feminist Majority Foundation stands in solidarity and supports the millions of Afghan women and girls who strive to build their futures and pursue paths to success in the face of oppression. Despite the challenges, Afghan women continue to resist and find ways to achieve financial independence and contribute to their families’ livelihoods.
UNHCR 03/23/2023; Just Security 08/2022; Amu TV 06/12/ 2023; Reuters 03/18/2023