More women are coming into practical life in this ‘closed’ country.
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan worsened during the period when the US and its coalition forces were actively present there. Considered a ‘worn-torn nation,’ Afghanistan is in dire need for a far-reaching change in mindset and development of its various social sectors. Moreover, with the thinning of international aid coming to Afghanistan, Kabul is desperately in need for solutions to sustain its socioeconomic balance. During these bleak times overshadowing the country’s socio-economic and
political fabric, social entrepreneurship is gaining momentum, especially among the youth – and particularly women. However, with foreign aid and investment becoming a distant dream for Afghanistan, social entrepreneurs from the country are aiming to change their society. To accomplish this task, they must understand the marketing and financial dynamics of their country, create a vision and mission for their business, and work on a strategy to build viable ideas to transform their society and eventually their country. Perhaps building and maintaining relations with key government officials, businessmen and influential decision-makers from the bureaucracy, these social entrepreneurs can move ahead in their dream of changing Afghanistan. Starting a business will be a challenge altogether in a country that has not seen social development in a long time. However, it is high time that Afghanistan’s youth brings constructive social change.
Shethab Afghanistan Center for Business and Social Innovation facilitates innovation and social ventures driven by
entrepreneurs. Their mentors, advisors and partners come from various countries, joining hands to bring social change in Afghanistan. According to the Shetab Afghanistan's website: “We share a vision about Central, West and East Asia that transcends borders - and one that is founded on thousands of years of wealth, prosperity and well-being of its people. With our incredible and growing community of like-minded individuals and diverse organizations, we are creating a vibrant startup and social innovation community in Afghanistan that believes in the power of collaboration and cocreation, shaping a more inclusive future for its citizens.” Located in Kabul, Shetab Afghanistan provides workforce development, capacity building, mentoring and co-working solutions to young entrepreneurs who arrive at Shetab with a vision and a passion to moving forward. Shethab broke the stereotype by recruiting the first female participant in its network. This was a major strike at the country’s mindset, in which the government and extremist factions prevent women from pursuing a career.
Where Afghanistan has been facing gender inequality for long, it also lags behind in providing education to its female population. According to Steven Koltai, Senior Advisor for Entrepreneurship to former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also ran the Global Entrepreneurship programme (GEP), said, “Entrepreneurship also empowers, enabling a poor woman in a poor country to generate income, secure a good home and send her children to school. This is also the promise of microfinance, but fullblown entrepreneurship takes it to a meaningful, lasting level.”
During the TED Talk in 2005, the current President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, the then Chancellor of the Kabul University, spoke on 'How to Rebuild a Broken State.' He called for a higher level of global engagement in the region, especially in Afghanistan. In response to the question, “How is Afghanistan going to provide alternative income to the many people who are making their living off the drugs trade?” Ghani said, “Instead of sending a billion dollars on drug eradication and paying it to a couple of security companies, they should give this hundred billion dollars to 50 of the most critically innovative companies in the world to ask them to create one million jobs. The key to drug eradication is jobs. Look, there's a very little known fact: countries that have a legal average income per capita of 1,000 dollars don't produce drugs.”
Although the constitution of Afghanistan pledges to provide women the right to education and employment, the political structure of the country, however, has created a gap between the rights that the women will receive and the dark truth – that women are oppressed and not allowed to live by their will. Even if women do take part in social entrepreneurship projects and assist men in bringing Afghanistan out of its many predicaments, it is imperative for the Afghan government to increase female participation in the Afghan Parliament, in peace talks and in rebuilding Afghanistan’s social, economic and political system.
Interestingly, the enrollment of women at the Kabul University’s computer science department is 30% of the total strength enrolled. Before 2002, there were no women studying in this department. This is a major step forward and the government must provide avenues for women in Afghanistan to gain education and become part of the system, by doing jobs or by becoming social entrepreneurs. This will be the only way forward for Afghanistan.
Starting a business will be a challenge altogether in a country that has not seen social development in a long time.