Afghan Women’s Economic Empowerment

By Ainsley Butler, Building Markets and Nilofar Sakhi, Executive Director, International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development

Afghan Women’s Economic Empowerment

, Kabul, Afghanistan

All around the world, women’s economic empowerment is at the forefront of development debates.

Recently, fears have crystallized about a reversal of the opportunities Afghan women have seized in the last decade. These fears include a surge in violence against women, and a decline in rights.

Yet in the shadow of war, despite extreme poverty and inequality, and in spite of strong opposition, a group of Afghan women have found their place in Afghan public life and the private sector. Safeguarding the advances made by women in Afghanistan must be a priority for Afghan society.

More than at any previous time in Afghanistan, women are leading civil society organizations, have been elected to the houses of parliament, have become business owners, or have joined the workforce.

They have done so with the support of their families and communities. They have been motivated by experiences in education, by their desire to improve the lives of those around them, and by their dreams of a better tomorrow.

The majority of women say they have entered the workforce during the last decade in Afghanistan. Half of these joined the labor market in the last five years and just over a quarter entered between six to 10 years ago. This points to a positive and growing trend for a small but important number of women in Afghanistan, who are part of the active in the labor force.

Despite the fact that Afghanistan is one of the worst places to be a woman [link to study], Afghan women are one of the country’s most valuable resources for development, in a way that is culturally relevant and meaningful. Scaling the role of women outside of the home is critical to ensuring that progress for women and girls is irreversible. But there are worrying and well-documented signs that this advancement is fragile.

For change to truly take shape in Afghanistan, it must be lead by both Afghan women and men. Afghan families and their communities need support so that they may work toward sustainably creating the society that they want, based on equal rights.

You can read the Afghan Women’s Economic Participation Report here in English, Dari, and Pashto.

Ainsley Butler co-wrote the 2013 Afghan Women’s Economic Participation Report. Nilofar Sakhi is the Executive Director of the International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development in Kabul.

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4 Responses

  1. This is so encouraging and impressive. I am of the opinion that women are more influential and connect more with community needs and finding solutions. Women contribution to meeting community and family needs is high and on a continuous even in Africa. When a woman is empowered then a whole community is empowered.

  2. Teyei, thank you for your comment. Do you know any recent studies about women’s economic participation in African countries?

  3. You are welcome Ainsley. Unfortunately I don’t know about any recent studies on women economic participation in Africa. There are groups and individuals that are doing small scale projects with women and is aimed at economic participation.

    Please permit me to ask about this then get back to you.

  4. Thank you Ainsley for your post and for the work that you are undertaking.

    Gender equality and the empowerment of women is important. This it is something that I emphasis as part of the strategic planning process with micro economic reform which is incorporated into rural development in Africa. 

    One last quick point here regarding Teyei’s comment. Conflict analysis recognises that in some situations, the role of women is a critical factor in the mediation and the eventual resolution of conflict.



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