Name: Nadjia Shujaee
Age: 33 years
Location: Bagh-E-Zanana Women’s Market, Kabul (Afghanistan)
One step through the door into the small Taj Mahal Clothing Store transports Afghan women into a fantasy land of exotic Indian silks and scarves. First-time visitors to this new store approach the racks and stacks of imported, vibrant clothes with awe. Most Afghan women have never seen clothes or material like this before.
“This fabric is too beautiful to wear,” says one new visitor as she cautiously fingers an elaborate silk brocade scarf. “I might spill something on it. I would be afraid to wear something so nice.”
Nadjia, who opened her store just a couple months ago in the new Bagh-E-Zanana Women’s Market, knows she is introducing new and unique fashions to the Afghan market and may have a difficult time making the business profitable immediately.
“In Afghanistan we have just been surviving for so many years, we have forgotten how to take care of ourselves and experiment with new fashions and styles,” she says. “But Afghan women love to dress up, and in time they will realize these clothes look better when worn than hanging on the rack.”
Nadjia, who lived in Iran for eight years when the Taliban was in control of Afghanistan, ran a very successful import clothing business in Iran. She hopes to replicate this success in Kabul.
“When the Bagh-E-Zanana Women’s Market opened I saw my chance to open my own store here. Until this women’s only market opened, there was no place in Afghanistan where I could have my own shop,” she says. “Mercy Corps has worked with many of the women business owners here to help us get started with small loans. So now we have a place we can own shops and the financial assistance to get us started.”