Economic Empowerment

*Note: Unless otherwise noted, all information regarding economic empowerment programming in Afghanistan is from 2019. Recent updates temporarily unavailable for safety and security reasons.

Afghanistan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry‘s mission is to effectively represent the concerns and interests of Afghan businesswomen in the policies and programs the government and international community carries out in Afghanistan. In 2020, AWCCI compiled a database of formal and informal businesses in Afghanistan. AWCCI was also able to improve policies including National Procurement Procedure (by including 5 percent preferential clause) and the Industrial Park Policy (by including 15-25 percent land allocation to women and SMEs). They were also able to make other policies such the National Trade Policy, National Export Strategy, and the Law Regulating Chambers more gender sensitive. Additionally, they trained more than 2500 women in Kabul and the provinces; connected more than 500 businesswomen to digital international and regional platforms. They helped support female entrepreneurs by certifying 48 businesses and by supporting 16 businesses in taking loans. They also recently developed a Women’s National Business Agenda Roadmap. (Updated 2020).

Turquoise Mountain (new window) was established in 2006 by His Majesty King Charles III to revive historic areas and traditional crafts, to provide jobs, skills and a renewed sense of pride. Turquoise Mountain supports thousands of families in Kabul, Bamiyan and the north of the country by providing education, family health services and by generating livelihood opportunities through craft production and the preservation of built heritage. Turquoise Mountain also works in Myanmar and the Middle East, and has restored over 150 historic buildings, employed and trained over 18,000 artisans and builders, built over 50 small businesses, and supported and generated over $19 million in sales of traditional crafts to international markets. 

Turquoise Mountain works with thousands of weavers across Afghanistan, ensuring fair-trade standards are implemented, including good working conditions, fair wages, the prohibition of child labor, and environmentally friendly production. After several years of close collaboration, in 2019 Turquoise Mountain combined efforts with founding USAWC member, ARZU Studio Hope in the Bamiyan Valley to accelerate the transformation of lives more broadly across Afghanistan by incorporating Arzu’s weaving centres, sales infrastructure and client network in North America. This merger of two well-established nonprofits supports an expanded network of skilled artisans, particularly women, to pursue decent livelihoods and support their families, while preserving the cultural heritage of Afghanistan. (Updated 2023)

The Bayat Foundation (new window) has shifted their focus from economic empowerment to humanitarian relief due to the increasing famine and drought crisis. See more information in the Health section. (Updated 2023)

The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (new window) (IEEW)’s signature program, PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS®, has been educating women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan since 2006. Four hundred fifty women business owners have graduated, each creating her own business plan while earning accreditation through our education partner, Northwood University. The PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® Network for alumnae is garnering visibility in Afghanistan by working with USAID and Afghan government agencies, co-founding the first Afghan Women’s Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AWCCI), as well as awarding grants annually through the Bibi Khadija gala awards, and paying it forward in their own communities in myriad ways. Graduates have created nearly 8,000 jobs for their fellow countrymen and women to date. (Updated 2019)  

Kandahar Treasure (new window) (KT) is a social enterprise run by and for the benefit of women in the Kandahar region of southern Afghanistan, working to revive and sustain the traditional art of khamak embroidery.  The enterprise aims to find national and international markets for hand-embroidered pieces, and raise the quality of the women artisans’ work through technical and business trainings. Founded in 2008 by former Afghan Education Minister Rangina Hamidi, KT exists to give life and value to the art of khamak—carrying with it not only history but tradition and the voice of women in Kandahar.

Through the sale of beautifully hand-embroidered products, KT supports a holistic approach to sustainable poverty alleviation through artisan-based employment that empowers Afghan women. Since its inception, KT has provided employment opportunities to over 1,000 women who create pieces of art that sustain traditional craft techniques and provide income and dignity for themselves and their families. This social enterprise is helping to rebuild Afghanistan’s economy by contributing to its infrastructure of production and empowering women to lead their families into a more peaceful and prosperous future, despite the circumstances around them. (Updated 2023)

Marshall Plan Charities (new window) is developing, on a 50/50 basis with Afghan villagers, its first sustainable, self-sufficient “model village” in Khairabad with wells, crops, a school, a vocational center, and a health clinic. (Updated 2019)

Project Artemis (new window) is a proven, successful business and leadership training program for Afghan women entrepreneurs, led by the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU, a top-ranked international business school located in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Started in 2005, 86 women have completed the Project Artemis program, creating over 3,000 jobs and training and mentoring an estimated 15,000 fellow Afghan men and women in business and leadership skills. Thunderbird continues to support these women remotely, connecting them to resources and opportunities whenever possible. Thunderbird is currently raising funds for our next cohort of Project Artemis.  (Updated 2019)

Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Initiative (new window), through a partnership between Thunderbird and the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), provided 307 Afghan women with high-level business and leadership education from 2008 through 2013. 10,000 Women has assisted graduates in establishing an alumni network and continues to engage these alumni and support areas of need among the rising generation of Afghan businesswomen through the Women’s Center at the AUAF. (Updated 2019)

Thunderbird for Good (new window) was contracted under Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) to lend expertise and knowledge to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Promote: Women in the Economy (WIE) and Musharikat programs. WIE is bolstering women’s inclusion in Afghanistan’s economy and working to ensure that progress made by Afghan women over the past decade endures and advances. Thunderbird for Good’s work has been instrumental in strengthening career counseling and job placement services through a customized job services guide created in concert with our partners in Afghanistan, and facilitating access to quality management tools and information through the creation of a searchable entrepreneurs’ assistant, containing answers to common business questions, step-by-step managerial methods, and tools and templates that business owners can use to increase efficiency and grow businesses in Afghanistan. This work also included success stories of business scenarios from Afghan women business owners and entrepreneurs. The Musharikat program focuses on providing training and support to the civil society sector in Afghanistan. They build coalitions around various aspects of women’s rights. Thunderbird’s role in this project was to create a Train the Trainer curriculum teaching women how to be persuasive. Thunderbird faculty delivered the training to 50 trainers over 10 days in Kabul during March of 2019. The trainers are tasked with themselves delivering training to over 5,000 other women’s rights advocates throughout the various provinces of Afghanistan. In addition, Thunderbird developed a stand-alone card game used in the training and beyond that is designed to strengthen and practice persuasion techniques and methods.  (Updated 2019)

Relief International’s Women’s Enterprise, Advocacy and Training (WEAT) Program (new window) finished in August 2022. It tackled the pervasive discrimination that women in Afghanistan face every day at multiple levels. The Program was a five-year effort started in 2017 and worked with a broad range of stakeholders from civil society, government and the private sector in seven districts of Ghazni, Kapisa and Nangarhar. It included a combination of direct interventions in communities alongside advocacy support to promote an enabling environment for economic empowerment of women and girls. The WEAT Program fostered women-owned businesses by providing them with technical support. It also engaged religious leaders and the Afghan police to prevent gender-based violence and child marriage. For instance, in Nangarhar, one of Afghanistan’s most conservative provinces, RI’s training course for 172 mullahs helped them include lessons on preventing child marriage in their Friday sermons. (Updated 2023)

Aseel Foundation (new window), in direct collaboration with the Aseel platform, onboards people from Afghanistan into the digital economy through the Buy Good and Do Good platforms. Tax-deductible Aseel Artisan and Humanitarian fund donations are channeled directly to support artisans and those needing immediate humanitarian help. With our dedicated Atalan team and Omid IDs, we aim to make a lasting, positive impact on the communities we serve, ensuring transparency is a top priority. (Updated 2024)