Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

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Listening to Women Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan: Their Struggle and Resilience

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UNDP, 16 April 2924

This new UNDP report looks at the situation of women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan whose “business activities (…) were reduced significantly following the August 2021 takeover.” It is based on data collection over the last three years: in-depth interviews with 49 women entrepreneurs from six provinces in September 2022 (both licensed and formally registered and unlicensed businesses); 10 focus group discussions conducted in Bamyan, Herat and Balkh provinces involving 100 women and 30 men entrepreneurs in August 2023; and a survey in which 3,122 women-led small and medium-sized enterprises participated between February and March 2024 across 8 regions and 18 provinces of Afghanistan.

According to UNDP, “the research highlights the high costs and hurdles faced by these entrepreneurs, including deepened discrimination, operational constraints, and a severely weakened financial system that has forced 41% of the surveyed women into debt. Movement restrictions further exacerbate these challenges, with 73% reporting being unable to travel even to local markets without a male escorting family member.”

It also found that the employment rate for working-age female members of households has halved to 6% over the past year. Under these conditions, “entrepreneurship has emerged as a lifeline”: 80% of women-led enterprises rely on their business revenues as their primary source of income, creating much-needed job opportunities for other women. “This report underscores the vital role of women entrepreneurs as pillars of economic stability and hope amidst adversity. It examines the main challenges women face and made a series of recommendations to address them.”