Mareena journeys back from Kazakhstan to do her part in the Afghan society

August 13, 2022

Graduation of the first batch of students who have completed the Master’s Programme in Gender and Women’s studies at Kabul University.

Sayed Omer Sadat

Mareena is a budding economist with a master’s degree in finance from the Kazakh- British- Technical University. She is one of the 50 female youth scholars whose degree was supported by UNDP’s “Supporting the Economic Empowerment of Afghan Women through Education and Training in Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan” project in 2020, with generous support from the EU.

Mareena’s ambition was to participate in driving the socio-economic development of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, as she had just finished her studies and was about to embark on her vision back home, the country was shaken to the core by the political transformation and the subsequent humanitarian and economic crisis in August 2021.

“I could not return home, and the flights from Kazakhstan stopped.” She went through grueling times without a job while watching her beloved country in disdain, issuing statement after statement that encroached upon women’s rights.

“I tried to find a job in Kazakhstan. However, I could not find any. I did serve as an English teacher, but that was not where my heart was, and neither was the salary enough to maintain a decent life.” In 6 months, Mareena made the courageous decision to return home. “I vowed to work in my field and country, whatever it takes.”

Mareena soon felt on her skin the new restrictions that bound women to their homes. There were neither opportunities nor fair competition for a job. She spent months stunned at her surreal situation while sensing her life slowly sink into an abyss.   

Fortunately, UNDP Afghanistan was able to support and offer a paid internship opportunity in one of the successful export companies in the country. A natural fighter, Mareena snapped up this chance.  Despite the everyday challenges and growing discrimination, Mareena is on her track to carving her way back as a fully-fledged member of the Afghan society by participating in its long-term recovery and garnering her dream as a successful entrepreneur.

The Afghanistan economy immediately contracted by 20% after August 2021 and lost an unprecedented US$ 4 billion or 5% of its GDP. UNDP Afghanistan recognizes and fully supports the contribution of women to the country’s finance, economy, and recovery. Unrestricted access to work for Afghan women is more than human rights – it’s simple economics and common sense. That is why UNDP plans to support at least 50,000 women-led Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises by 2022, with hopes that more ambitious youth such as Mareeena can receive uninhibited support for their businesses, as the bedrock of Afghanistan’s economy.