Economic Forum on Women Entrepreneurship
04, April, 2017
The International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development of the American University of Afghanistan held the very first International Conference solely focused on Afghan Women Entrepreneurship on 2-4 April 2017. One hundred and fifty participants including women entrepreneurs from Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, and Jalalabad participated in the forum. The three days conference identified strategies to support women businesses as well as tackling business women challenges on a diverse scale. Government officials, international community, business women, academia, international guest speakers, media representatives along students were among the participants of this forum. Among the guests was also Dr. Abdullah Abdullah Chief Executive of Afghanistan who insisted in role of women in economy to ensure progress in the country.
At the opening ceremony of the three day forum David Sedney Acting President of the American University of Afghanistan said Afghanistan is among the countries with a very low rate of women in business. Women owned businesses count for only 3% of registered businesses according to him.
The economic forum built on the research findings by ICAWED on 80% of legally registered businesses got inactive out of 5000 businesses covered in this research. ICAWED then carried out a structured interview with 200 failed businesses and 4 group discussion to provide explanation on the factors impeding progress in business sector for women. These findings enhanced by the policy analysis of key national documents and an executive committee was formed composed of key representative of ministries involved in economic sector to deepen the analysis. The findings became the building blocks of this forum.
Improving the role of women in business sector remains a challenging factor in Afghanistan. The low number of women being involved in businesses deliberately explains the need for economic forums and conferences to focus on issues in more specialized and academic ways to let this sector flourish. Most of women focus on small businesses fearing failure, lack of resources and skills in terms of enlarging their revenue; however, this forum provided a bigger networking channel giving the opportunity to focus in larger extent. “It is my first time hearing about business challenges for women, knowing these challenges help me plan my future business accordingly” said Zuhal, senior business student at AUAF. Leadership, management, and use of technology in today’s business world were highlights discussed in this forum through engaging presentations. Panel discussions were formed by professionals on enterprise development (tips for success), implementation of inheritance law for women, and women in business and economy.
“I have learned about three main points which are essential for every woman entrepreneur; not giving up, self-confidence, and management.” Said Ayesha Aziz, an experienced business woman as one of the take away from this forum. Ayesha has 31 years of experience in processing gem stones in Afghanistan with around 2500 team members on her team. She had joined the forum to share her experience with other women and tackle the shared challenges.
Ayesha’s ambition is to pass along her experience and knowledge to the young force of business women.
The forum ended with six presentations by participants discussing the challenges women faced as entrepreneurs in both urban and rural part of Afghanistan. Common recommendations were found based on input and practices given by guest speakers from developing countries; whom shared the challenges. The last panel including commitment of government presented by Deputy Minister of MoCI, Deputy Minister of MolSAMD, Deputy Minister of MRRD and representative of CRIDA. With 3% involvement in business, participants hoped for more collaboration and opportunities to enhance their abilities in business sector.