My name is Ferhana
Ferhana is not my real name - but I am a woman in Afghanistan, so I must change my name to stay safe while I tell you my story.
I feel proud when I look back and compare myself with past me. I have learnt so much and became an expert in business, marketing and exhibitions.
About four years ago, I graduated from the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations programme, and this changed everything in my life.
During one of our tailoring classes, Women for Women International announced that they would rent a shop for one participant, and I couldn’t believe when I heard that I was the one who was selected. Women for Women International rented the shop for me and paid the rent for two years. They also supported me by providing me with other participants’ products to sell.
At that time, I was the sole breadwinner for my family. I married 20 years ago but am a widow now. I have three daughters and three sons.
My work was very successful during the republic regime. I sold clothes made from velvet and georgette fabric, and jewellery too. When the de facto government took power, they banned women from going to gardens and so they shut down my shop, which is located in a historical garden. I was shocked.
How would I pay my bills and buy food for my family? There was simply no money and no work, and I saw myself with nothing.
I couldn’t accept this decision like this.
So, together with other women, we conducted several meetings with the authorities and shared our concerns with them. It was not only me that lost a source of income. At that time, I was employing 12 to 20 other women. If I became jobless, all of them would also become jobless. We were all widows and the sole breadwinners of our families.
I needed to be brave enough to tell them that we didn’t have any male support and that our children were young. My eldest was only 12 years old at that time, so I asked them: “Would you rather I beg on the streets or earn an income along with the other women whom I work with?”
After that meeting, they called one week later to tell us that we could keep working, and I reopened my shop.
I could finally breathe calmly.
I reopened the shop and now we sell Afghan and Hazaragi clothes, and different types of gemstones like lapis lazuli, chrysocolla and Shah Maqsoodi Stone. As the business is going well, we are also buying some other jewellery from the market.
Over the last three years, I have also participated independently in exhibitions to sell my products and earn money. I pay the cost to participate by myself, as I don’t have the approval from the Chamber of Commerce or a reference.
As a mother, I don’t expect my children to work and earn money for me.
I want to be independent and be able to provide for them.
My only hope is that they get their education, so they can have a future where they will also be able to provide for their families. I am encouraging my sons and daughters to learn the Quran, English and Mathematics. I enrolled my daughters to take English language courses two years ago, but the authorities closed the courses, so they are now at home and helping me with some sewing and tailoring work.
I have cried very much for them now that they are at home.
This was not the future I wanted for them, and sometimes I feel hopeless. I can see that they feel anxious and depressed, because they also have fears about their future. Thankfully, I have enrolled them in a tailoring course with Women for Women International to give them hope.
I hope that we, as Afghan women, keep enduring and showing up for each other.
We have the power to change things and I will do whatever I can to keep my shop running so that my children and also other women who work with me see a future for themselves.
Read more stories
At 31 years old, Josephine is married with two children. She is from Nigeria, where she had to drop out of school after falling pregnant. Now, she hopes to continue her education to university level. Read her story.
Being in the programme, I enjoyed having the space to connect with other women in the skill-building and social empowerment classes. I was learning things that I never imagined I would have the opportunity to learn in my life.
Through our programme, Amissi has learnt financial literacy, vocational skills and about family planning. She has transformed her marriage, her children's opportunities and - ultimately - her life.