Listening to Women Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan: Their Struggle and Resilience


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Listening to Women Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan: Their Struggle and Resilience

April 16, 2024

This comprehensive report unveils the remarkable resilience of women-owned and -led businesses in Afghanistan, despite formidable challenges. The study by UNDP, through its Istanbul International Centre for Private Sector in Development in collaboration with REACH - a humanitarian initiative providing granular data, timely information and in-depth analysis from contexts of crisis, disaster and displacement- and the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), is based on extensive research with women entrepreneurs including 3,100 quantitative interviews, focus group discussions with over 100 participants, and dozens of in-depth individual interviews. It is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies to date on the economic situation of women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan. 

The research highlights the high costs and hurdles faced by these entrepreneurs, including deepened discrimination, operational constraints, and a severely weakened financial system that has forced 41% of the surveyed women into debt. Movement restrictions further exacerbate these challenges, with 73% reporting being unable to travel even to local markets without a male escorting family member.

In a country where 15.8 million people are food insecure and the employment rate for working-age female members of households has halved to 6% over the past year, entrepreneurship has emerged as a lifeline. The survey shows that 80% of women-led enterprises rely on their business revenues as their primary source of income, creating much-needed job opportunities for other women. This report underscores the vital role of women entrepreneurs as pillars of economic stability and hope amidst adversity. It examines the main challenges women face and made a series of recommendations to address them.