Suhaila’s booth at the recent expo was a vibrant display of her creativity and skill. Colourful handbags and traditional Afghan clothes adorned the shelves, each a masterpiece made from local materials like wool, cotton, and silk, intricately patterned and embroidered. She smiled as she looked at her products, proud of her work and her team.
“I never thought I would become an entrepreneur. I was just a simple woman who loved making handicrafts. But life had other plans for me,”
said Suhaila, a woman who rose beyond adversity and became a successful entrepreneur in Afghanistan.
From dream to reality
Suhaila, 45, from Aikhanum village of Takhar province, Afghanistan had a simple dream: to make beautiful handicrafts and support her family. But life was not easy for her. Her husband, a former government employee, was jobless. She had to take care of her nine-member family, including her children, who were pursuing their education.
She did not give up on her dream, though. She discovered her passion and talent for making handbags and Afghan traditional clothes, using local materials such as wool, cotton, and silk. She established a handicraft production centre in her village, employing 21 local women and providing them with livelihood opportunities. She also contributed to the growth and improvement of the local handicraft sector.
However, she faced many challenges and obstacles on her entrepreneurial journey. She lacked market access, skills, and resources to refine her products, expand her customer base, and increase her income. She needed support and training to achieve her goals and overcome her difficulties.
Suhaila’s journey of resilience and empowerment through entrepreneurship is closely linked with the transformative impact of the UNDP’s LITACA III project. As a targeted beneficiary of the project, she received equipment, marketing assistance, labelling, design, and export facilitation that enabled her to overcome her challenges and elevate her craft-based business.
Through the project’s efforts, a network of 427 producers and entrepreneurs, including Suhaila, received crucial technical and skills development capacity building, fostering economic growth and sustainable livelihoods.
Reaching new heights
Recently, Suhaila’s journey took another notable turn during the Women’s Economic Empowerment Expo organized by UNDP’s EGEMA project and Afghanistan Women's Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI). She had a booth to showcase her products and connect with potential partners and markets. The event brought together an additional 54 women entrepreneurs from all eight regions of Afghanistan.
A total of 26 buyers attended the Expo, with seven participating on the first day and an additional 17 joining on the second day. These buyers not only engaged in consultation conversations with Suhaila and other women entrepreneurs but also provided valuable presentations on expanding business to international markets and enhancing product exports to other countries.
The exhibited products ranged from traditional Afghan clothing, carpets, handmade jewellery, pickles and jams, embroidery items, saffron, decorative handmade products, and much more. During this exhibition, many women entrepreneurs achieved remarkable success, selling products worth more than $300 each.
“The connections and the market insights that I gained are invaluable for me,” she said.
Suhaila has now risen beyond adversity by expanding her employee count to 21, boosting her monthly income from 5000 to 15000, and creating a positive ripple effect within her community.
About LITACA III
The LITACA III is a four-year initiative, funded by the Government of Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and implemented by UNDP Tajikistan in cooperation with UNDP Afghanistan. LITACA III aims to help communities by building the community-based infrastructure, creating One Village One Product (OVOP) by providing equipment and supporting marketing, labelling, design, and export. LITACA III is a continuation of the previous phases of LITACA I and II, which have been implemented since 2014.