Sohaila's Story

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My name is Sohaila

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Daring to break barriers in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, women are being erased from public life. Poverty levels are high, girls' education is restricted and women's rights have been rolled back decades under the de facto government's regime

94% of widows in Afghanistan are illiterate

Source: Afghanistan Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor, Martyrs and Disabled, 2018

95% of people in Afghanistan are not getting enough to eat - almost 100% in women-headed households

Source: UN, 2022

2% of business owners in Afghanistan are women

Source: World Bank, 2018

For women like Sohaila in our programme, getting up every day to open her shop, bringing in an income and putting her children through school are all acts of bravery. #SheDares to keep going, challenge traditional norms and the status quo, and work towards a brighter future. 

Sohaila, a widow, mother and now business owner in Afghanistan. Since losing her husband, she has refused to withdraw from public life, as her society expects her to. Instead, she dares to work, earn and support her family.
Sohaila, a widow, mother and now business owner in Afghanistan. Since losing her husband, she has refused to withdraw from public life, as her society expects her to. Instead, she dares to work, earn and support her family. Photo: Women for Women International

My name is Sohaila

and my story represents women who stand up during adversity and conflict

In Afghanistan, tradition often dictates the roles of women and men. I found myself in a unique situation where my husband and I worked tirelessly together to put food on the table. 

When my father gave me land for agriculture, I made the decision to build a house for my husband and children. Unfortunately, a few years later, my husband succumbed to an illness, and conflict erupted in our district. I lost family members, and many were injured. 

Everything crumbled on me. I was now faced with the harsh reality of raising children alone and managing the entire household. I had to sell the house and leave Peshawar, my ancestral home and the place where I had built dreams with my late husband. 

Life became unbearable for me and my children in the new district.

Culturally, as a widow, it was expected of me to withdraw from public life and rely on the support of my extended family. However, I was determined to take a different path to provide for my children.

Sohaila. Photo: Women for Women International

I navigated the challenges, seeking employment opportunities to break the dependency cycle. 

In the village, life was tough; there were no facilities, my children did not go to school, and there were no employment opportunities. We faced numerous difficulties and challenges. I felt incredibly sad in the new village. 

After months of searching for opportunities in the streets, I discovered a chance that would change my life and my children's lives. Women for Women International's Stronger Women, Stronger Nations programme is specifically designed to empower women with skills.

Sohalia selling items in her shop. According to the World Bank in 2018, 98% of business-owners were men. Sohaila is one of the 2% of women business-owners in Afghanistan. Photo: Women for Women International

I decided to join the programme to change the lives of my children. I enrolled in the poultry and tailoring class. Under the guidance of my trainers, I learned how to keep poultry and make clothes. Additionally, I was trained on how to start and maintain a business. During the training, I also got to learn about my rights as a woman, my right to own property, my right to control family finances, and how to prevent violence and domestic abuse. 

With newfound confidence and money saved from the monthly stipend from Women for Women International, I started my own business, keeping poultry and livestock for sale. Within a short time, the business flourished, and I would make a monthly profit of about $60. 



My life has transformed; my children are back in school, and I have built a new house for my family. Despite the challenges earlier in my life, I dared to take a second chance at life.

I have sent my children back to school, and I am satisfied with my life. 

My success challenges entrenched perceptions about the capabilities of women and widows to take charge of their households. I dared to break societal norms and pursue an unconventional path that has led to my success. 

Meet other women who dare



Dada was forced to flee her home when Boko Haram threatened to kill her husband. Now she is a successful businesswoman and a leader in her community. 



In Afghanistan, Amina* dares to stand up for women’s rights. Women have been virtually erased from public life over the past two years: banned from parks, gyms, restaurants, most jobs and education. Opposing these restrictions is incredibly dangerous, but Amina dares to keep teaching in our training centre. She braves the constant scrutiny of government authorities and she dares to spread the word that education should be the right of every woman and girl.  



When Russia invaded, Iryna had the courage to stay in Ukraine. In a bomb shelter, she met women who had been sexually abused by Russian soldiers. Iryna dedicated her charity, The Andreev Foundation, to supporting women survivors of sexual violence. Women who speak out about sexual assault often face shame and suspicion, especially in rural areas of Ukraine. Iryna dares to believe survivors, to speak out against sexual violence and demand justice – despite the risk that the perpetrators will return.

Stand with her

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