Business Student Interviews

My head is swimming from transcribing the interviews of four students of the IEEW. (The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women,

When I listened to Rahela describe her yard-long list of activities that she had done over the years to provide education, health and employment services for women, I was wondering what anyone in the West would have to teach her. What she (and others) appreciate about what IEEW and other business training organizations have to teach are the mechanics of organization, writing business plans, self-promotion, “wayward employee” management and things like these which aren’t part of Afghan culture.

Throughout all of the interviews I’ve done with these women and others, there is the common theme that they are who and what they are because of the support they got from their families. And they feel a need to pay it back. Farghana says that her dream for herself is to be an internationally known successful businesswoman, but also “I would be a woman who will take her family along with herself. I know my power,… but I think that my family is my backbone”.

Sometimes they had to fight for that support and prove themselves, like Miriam, a photojournalist, whose father wouldn’t let her travel to Herat with a female foreign colleague. She “worked on him” for awhile until he got used to that idea and later the idea of her living alone in another town on another assignment, then to take a photo course in India, and etc. etc. At this point, when she’s not home by 9 PM, (which is generally unacceptable for women in Afghanistan) he will call her to make sure she’s safe, but he trusts that she’s doing important work. It helps that she’s bringing in a good income.

What finally convinced him is that she told him that when she’s out photographing, interviewing and interpreting, no one sees her as a woman, that they see her as a man because of the way she acts and talks. Really, these fathers are taking a big chance in a society where even rumors of their daughter’s unacceptable behavior can land the woman and by extension their families in serious trouble, if not even prison. I’m seeing that often this “trouble” comes from conservative relatives.

And it’s not only the fathers. Those who are married, must necessarily have accepting and supportive husbands, and not always pertaining to the women bringing in an income. When Sakina and her friends organized the demonstration against the Shia Family Law (in the West more famously known as the Hazara Marital Rape Law), “my family supported me.  Especially my husband, because we are like friends.”

Another benefit of that demonstration for her and her friends was the example of how powerful women working together can be. There are many cases of women doing things and creating organizations to help those less fortunate, but many who participated, felt as Sakina did, that “when we make contact with another woman and share ideas and our skills, we can improve ourselves.”

One Response to “Business Student Interviews”

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