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Dozens of Afghan businesswomen participated remotely in a Dubai exhibition this week, showcasing carpets, jewellery, dried fruit, and other handmade products. The event aimed to help these women access international markets, as their work opportunities have diminished under the Taliban administration in Afghanistan.

The three-day exhibition, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Afghan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI), included 26 female-run businesses. Held at a hotel in Dubai, it commenced on Thursday.

Overcoming Barriers: Virtual Attendance

Due to visa and travel restrictions, most business owners joined the event via video link from the Afghan capital. They shared that the country’s struggling economy and restrictions on women in public life have hindered their businesses.

Rayhana Karim, from the AWCCI, explained that they were working to create a brand for their products, labeled “Made by Afghan Women,” to reach consumers abroad who wish to support women’s rights.

Fighting for a Seat at the Table

The International Labour Organization (ILO) recently estimated that 25% of women’s jobs have disappeared since the Taliban took over as foreign forces withdrew in 2021. Many women have turned to home-based businesses, preventing further decline in female employment figures.

Afghanistan’s economy has been severely impacted after foreign governments froze central bank assets and imposed sanctions on the banking sector. The Taliban administration has banned many female NGO workers, and some Taliban-run ministries do not allow female staff to work in their offices. However, some officials, including the Taliban’s acting commerce minister, have expressed support for female-led businesses.

Unstoppable: Afghan Women’s Resilience

Despite the challenges, the businesswomen involved in the expo remain resolute. Ziagul Jahani, a handmade clothes and carpets producer from central Parwan province, stated, “We lost our hope when Afghanistan collapsed … but Afghan women are fighters, we will struggle and fight. We will never allow losing our business to happen.”

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