By Charlotte Young
With the help of several business support initiatives, Afghan women are taking on entrepreneurial dreams and creating a niche for themselves.
Of those initiatives, one of their top supporters is Peace Dividend Trust. “The untold story in Afghanistan is the rise of female entrepreneurs,” Executive Director Scott Gilmore tells Forbes.
“They are turning into a powerful force for growth and stability.”
Peace Dividend Trust works with Afghan entrepreneurs to match them to local market opportunities. In its latest study, it counted 242 women-owned companies in its national database of nearly 7,000 Afghan companies. Three to five new women-owned ventures join its registry each month.
But female entrepreneurs in Afghanistan are exceling beyond the framework of Peace Dividend Trust. For women in Afghanistan, “Bpeace” stands for hope, support and future. Started in 2002, this non-profit has about 300 professional business volunteers working to bring job creation and financial stability to communities torn apart by war and conflict. According to Forbes, the organization uses a strategy that involves “pro-bono skilled consulting” for “high-potential small business owners” or “Fast Runners” in economically ready sectors. Its work and dedication has been able to create one million jobs throughout 1,000 communities across several countries.
One of its successful business ventures brought two Afghan soccer ball manufacturers together creating financial gains for the 430 Afghan women who hand stitch the balls.
In addition to its work in Afghanistan, Bpeace is also making ground in Rwanda and El Salvador. In Rwanda, after 14 of its “Fast Runners” graduated from the three year program in 2009, communities in the country began to see restaurants, retail shops and landscaping businesses spring up. Graduates were even able to create an amusement park. These new businesses together employ about 168 Rwandans whose financial earnings support 746 family members.
The US’s support of Bpeace brought nine male and female entrepreneurs to the US last year. These entrepreneurs were able to apprentice and gain knowledge from 37 US businesses, including Microsoft and Redmond Minerals.