On 17 October 2016, EQUALITY for Peace and Democracy held a National Dialogue on “Economic Empowerment of Afghan Women Entrepreneurs” to spread awareness about the importance of women protection centers to address VAW, exchange of the best practices among different women protection centers and to bring stakeholders together to improve the financial sustainability of these women protection centers. During this year, EPD jointly with AWSDC have conducted numerous rounds of skill trainings for 270 beneficiaries including women in protection centers and those women who come from poor backgrounds, to empower them to establish their own entrepreneurship.
The program was inaugurated with a speech, delivered by Mr. Omarzad on main findings of EPDs research report “Barriers to Women Entrepreneurs’ Access to Market”. This research was carried out to assess markets in Afghanistan and throws light on Afghanistan’s economic outlook. In addition, this research report discusses the barriers that Afghan women face in markets and also it suggests some policy recommendation for improving women entrepreneurs’ situation.
After this presentation, a panel session was facilitated by Mr. Edrees Omarzad, executive director of EPD and the panelists included Ms. Humaira Saqib (Head of Civil Society Joint Working Group), Ms. Manizha Wafiq (Chairperson of LEAD Board), Ms. Gutai Sahebyan (Program Manager at AWSDC), Mr. Hussain Ali (Representative of women affair ministry) and Ms. Palwasha Hassan (Director of AWEC).
Around 75 took part in this national dialogue and the participants included the representatives of ministry of women affair and other governmental sector, representatives of LEAD, AWSDC, AWEC, and other civil society, women entrepreneurs, community member and the members of media fraternity. This wide range of participants made it possible to discuss this topic from different perspectives. Opinions were taken from policy makers, implementers and the entrepreneurs themselves. There was an consensus among the participants that women are capable of running business and many examples of such women were mentioned during the discussion. Furthermore, constrains in front of women entrepreneurs especially women in protection shelters were discussed with deep analysis and different stakeholders shared their opinions in this regard.
During her speech, Ms. Manizha Wafiq (Chairperson of LEAD Board) talked about challenges faced by women entrepreneurs running small businesses. She stressed that financial problems and lack of access to loans is one of the main barriers of women entrepreneurs. Mentioning to a research in Afghanistan, she said that out of 700 surveyed women, 561 could start their business and only 79 women had access to Bank loans.
Ms. Palwasha Hassan (Director of AWEC) talked about role of women entrepreneurs on economic growth. She said that lack of confidence and family issues are significant problems that women are facing during their entrepreneurships.
Mr. Hussain Ali representative of ministry of women affair talked about the ministry’s activities and programs for women empowerment. He mentioned about a project about promoting economic independence in Bamyan.
After panel discussion, presentations were conducted by Ms. Sultana Khaknezhad (legal expert at LEAD organization) and Ms. Gutai Sahebyan (Program Manager at AWSDC) about their organizations’ activities and their initiatives for women economic empowerment. The program was concluded by a Q & A session and frequently the questions posed by the participants were answered.