Up from the Ashes

A Young Woman’s Entrepreneurial Journey

November 27, 2022

Freba Andeshmand is a young and ambitious entrepreneur in her shop

photos by Asadullah Azami

Freba Andeshmand is a young and ambitious entrepreneur living in a remote valley in the province of Bamyan in central Afghanistan. She runs a joint venture enterprise called Rawzana – Saadat Livestock & Dairy Processing. The main focus of her business is collecting fresh yoghurt from rural farmers for processing it into dried qoruth, an Afghan delicacy, and then selling the value-added product onto the market.

Freba is also one of the beneficiaries of ABADEI, UNDP’s unique area-based development program, which supports small and medium-sized businesses, particularly women-run.

Freba comes from a modest background. She remembers with deep emotion how she began her journey to entrepreneurship with a simple gift from her father of just 500 AFN (around $5) to help her to study. During her studies at Bamyan University, she got a part-time marketing job with a local logistics company and worked there for two years.  

Analyzing the market situation through her work experience gave her confidence in her abilities. “If they can do it, I can do it too,” she thought.  That is when she decided to establish her dairy company. She started the business with 100,000 AFN (about US$ 1,100) savings from her marketing job. 

Freba is a powerful person: running a business as a woman in the male-dominated Afghan society is far from easy, let alone in a rugged rural setting. But since August 2021, things have become even more difficult, as the de facto authority has clamped down on women’s freedom to work, and the entire economy has collapsed. That is when her business began to struggle. So Freba was delighted to have been chosen for UNDP’s Women-Led Enterprises (WLE) support, part of the ABADEI programme, delivered by the international NGO BRAC.

As a beneficiary, Freba has received training, business advice, and a cash grant to help develop her business. According to Freba, the courage, skills, and knowledge gained on the programme has been pivotal for her. “This has been a life-changing experience,” says Freba, “A rise-up-from-the-ashes moment. It has given me new aspirations and a distinctive vision for building my business.”

Embracing her challenging role as a self-starting businesswoman, Freba is determined to be a role model for the next generation of women business leaders. Within the coming year, she hopes to create more jobs in her dairy processing enterprise so she can employ other women and empower them to succeed. Her goal in the next few years is to grow her brand and hopefully have many branches throughout the country. She has already reached out to students across Afghanistan to create a marketing network. From humble beginnings, Freba has shown that Afghan women have the talent and will to succeed, even in adversity.

This project was realized through a generous donation from the Government of Japan, a long-term partner to UNDP Afghanistan that continued through the COVID-19 pandemic and the sudden changes in August 2021.

UNDP Afghanistan and The Government of Japan share the vision of the centrality of Human Security and the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus approach in responding to, and recovering from, both the humanitarian and development crisis in Afghanistan.