Afghan Woman Selling to Women


May 21, 2004

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    Aziza Rajabi, a Mercy Corps loan client, was one of the first businesswomen to open a shop in Kabul's unique Bagh-E-Zanana Women’s Market. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps Photo:

Name: Aziza Rajabi
Age: 45 years

Location: Bagh-E-Zanana Women’s Market, Kabul (Afghanistan)

Just two months ago, Aziza Rajabi embarked on a new path that she never dreamed possible. For years Aziza worked as a tailor to support her three children. She toiled inside her home, and sent the clothes she made out to shops in the local bazaar to be sold by shops run by men. In Afghanistan it is not acceptable for women to work in public places and deal directly with men who are not part of their immediate family.

However, a new market in Kabul designed exclusively for women has opened the door to possibilities that until this year were unthinkable to most Afghan women. In the center of the crowded and teaming city, behind a tall wall and gate monitored by security officers, lies an oasis for women: Bagh-E-Zanana Women’s Market. Here in this protected park setting, women are free to run businesses, dress as they please and simply relax without the cultural pressures and stares of men that have kept women at home and hidden under the burka for decades.

Aziza was one of the first entrepreneurial women to take advantage of this new development in Kabul. She launched her own shop, Hashim Super Store, and began selling her clothes and other goods directly to other women. Business has been good and she is already working to expand her shop and product line with a loan from Mercy Corps’ microfinance program.

“Bagh-e-Zanana has changed my life,” says Aziza. “Now I am able to make more money because I am selling my clothes directly to my customers rather than through a middleman. But more importantly, now I can be out everyday meeting with women and not locked inside my house.”

Aziza has big plans for the future. “With a loan from Mercy Corps I will add baby clothes and shoes to my store inventory,” she says. “Now that I am able to talk directly with my customers I can satisfy them better. Everyone has already been asking when the new items will arrive, so I know it will be a success.”