E-Commerce Connecting Afghan Women Entrepreneurs to the Global MarketIn 2020, 47.3% of Afghanistan’s population lived below the national poverty line. Poverty in the country increased sharply over the last decade due to a stalled economy and the rise of Taliban insurgency. It left almost 90% of Afghans struggling to live and unable to support their families with their current income. This combined effect of stagnating economic growth and deteriorating security resulted in poverty hitting record-breaking heights. The high poverty rate is especially dire for Afghan women. However, e-commerce is providing Afghan women entrepreneurs the opportunity to join the global market and push their communities out of poverty.

History of Female Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

Women suffered deeply during Afghanistan’s almost 40-year war. They ferociously and tirelessly fought for gender equality. During the Taliban regime from 1906 to 2001, women were denied access to basic rights such as education, employment, freedom of movement and healthcare. Essentially, women were either invisible in public life or subjected to continuous violence. After 2001, female activists achieved significant legislative progress. However, the patriarchal structures, religious fundamentalism, the Taliban’s remaining rhetoric and the all-prevailing insecurity of the nation still shape the country and hinder the progress toward equality.

The Successes of Online Commerce

Despite poverty, corruption and political instability, Afghan women all over the country found a way to break away from their conservative society through digital advancements. One of the ways women entered into the world of business was through the Afghan e-commerce site Click.af. Founded in 2016 by Masiullah Stanikzai, Click.af provides Afghans access to a domestic online market. The site started shipping globally last year. The main reason behind the expansion was to connect local designers and artisans to a larger base of consumers around the world. It also promoted Afghan-made products. When sellers register on Click.af, they can find technology, tools and infrastructure to help them grow and succeed. The elements include customer management, marketing and sales tools to manage consumers while showing their presence online and boost sales.

Real Stories of Female-run Businesses

Click.af inspires young women to be entrepreneurs. Currently, the e-commerce platform has enabled 45 Afghan women entrepreneurs to launch their own small businesses. One of these women is 25-year-old Maryam Yousufi, who launched the fashion line called Machum. Yousufi’s brand focuses on designing clothes that fuse Western style with traditional Afghan designs. Yousufi’s dream was to see her products reach global markets. She believes online platforms can give others a chance to try entrepreneurship and overcome conservative attitudes toward women. Through Click.af she was able to receive a credit to start a business.

Women entrepreneurs, especially those in the sector of social entrepreneurship, often disrupt patterns of gender inequality. They reshape dominant expectations, norms and stigmas. According to the World Economic Forum, Yousufi couldn’t even dare to believe that one day she would be able to sew clothes. Yousufi is now designing and selling clothes. According to Yousufi, the opportunity she found through e-commerce allowed her to make decisions in a country where others usually made decisions for her. Click.af is about selling and connecting, but it also shows Afghan women entrepreneurs that they have the right to choose a path for themselves.

Advances for Women Entrepreneurs

E-commerce is a powerful tool that is capable of bringing great benefits to female entrepreneurs. It challenges the old barriers of geographic isolation and restricted access to information and financing. Thanks to the expansion of e-commerce, people in Afghanistan today can shop with full information. They now have the knowledge of the pros and cons of the products instead of relying on word-to-mouth. E-commerce platforms, including Click.af, have also made it possible for shops to open 24/7. This resulted in a meaningful increase in sales for local sellers. More importantly, e-commerce is a necessity in Afghanistan since COVID-19 reached the country and mobility was consequently limited. During the lockdown, while most physical stores and public companies closed, online retailers were able to operate without violating social distance regulations.

Looking Forward

Although e-commerce ventures in Afghanistan still struggle to flourish due to issues such as security issues, capital investments and online payments, there is no doubt that online shopping will exponentially increase its presence in the next few years. Platforms similar to Click.af provide an important opportunity for Afghanistan’s war-torn economy, and more specifically, it demonstrates how empowering female social entrepreneurs is key for the country’s economic recovery. Click.af has been able to reframe the definition of success in a more inclusive manner, which includes and celebrates Afghan women who, against all odds, are taking a chance and jumping into entrepreneurship.

– Alejandra del Carmen Jimeno

Photo: Flickr 

Creates Jobs for Women in Ethiopia
Live fasionABLE is a slogan that transcends the fashion industry. It promotes sustainable practices in creating quality products and focuses on empowering women. The shift to ethically sourced products has grown in popularity among the younger generations. ABLE is one fashion business that strives to provide jobs for women in Ethiopia, as well as internationally.

ABLE in Ethiopia

ABLE’s mission is to challenge the culture of the fashion industry by creating transformative opportunities for women. It aims to provide quality products to improve people’s livelihood in Ethiopia. Thus, the business provides many women opportunities for employment. This is one way that ABLE contributes to alleviating global poverty.

ABLE provides jobs for women in Ethiopia exiting the sex trafficking industry. Employed women manufacture scarves and aid in production. The company trains and equips women to make beautiful, cultural and quality scarves. Less than 38.8% of women held positions in the workforce globally in 2020, highlighting the need for businesses like ABLE to prioritize hiring women.

About 80% of women living in rural areas of Ethiopia work in agricultural cultivation and production and rarely receive any compensation for their work. Furthermore, fathers and husbands often place strict restrictions on women. USAID states that one in three women in Ethiopia experiences one type of physical, emotional or sexual abuse in their lifetime. Providing employment opportunities for women increases their autonomy and financial independence.

Employment Opportunities

Women who receive employment are able to provide an avenue for their children and communities to thrive through economic empowerment. According to author Ain Wright, there are five different policy approaches to closing the gender gap in Ethiopia: welfare, efficiency, anti-poverty, equity and empowerment. ABLE utilizes all five of these strategies for women that it hires.

The welfare and the efficiency approach go hand in hand. Providing women with the means to support themselves motivates and empowers them to actively support their communities. Additionally, all women receive encouragement to discover their voices through the strategy of empowerment, anti-poverty and equity.

Gender Equality

One challenge in increasing employment for women remains deeply rooted in cultural expectations and gender norms. ABLE has a commitment to creating a culture based on equality and rebuilding women’s lives. The fashion industry offers the highest number of jobs to women globally. Yet, only 2% of these women receive a fair wage. ABLE posts its wages on its website for the public to see, allowing consumers to understand the importance of their purchase.

As ABLE grew, it expanded its network to provide jobs for women in Ethiopia, Mexico, India, Brazil and Nashville, U.S. The company partners with local communities to assist in developing individual economies rather than developing itself into a major fashion corporation. ABLE also believes that telling people’s stories affects consumer awareness. Women with employment there created a podcast to tell their stories of strength and hopes for the future. The podcast and products continue to build consumer awareness, alleviate poverty and empower women.

ABLE is making great strides to grow as a company and maintains its role as an ethically sourced fashion brand. Its efforts have created more jobs for women in Ethiopia, empowering them their families and their communities. Moving forward, it is essential that other fashion companies shift to sustainable and ethical practices.

– Kate Lucht
Photo: Flickr

Microfinancing Partners in Africa
Microfinancing Partners in Africa is a nonprofit that provides microfinance opportunities to people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its current programs vary in nature. Some examples include giving loans to subsistence farmers to purchase a cow, providing water filtration systems and educating students on microfinance.

Microfinance is an innovative approach to growing the economies of impoverished nations by giving its citizens access to small loans, usually under $200. It is a way for those in poverty to develop a stable income because they do not have access to traditional loans.

Historically, companies have used high-interest rates to take advantage of impoverished people seeking loans. However, agencies like Microfinancing Partners in Africa counter that practice. It offers options that often require recipients to take financial literacy courses and give them loans without requiring collateral. In this way, Microfinancing Partners in Africa works to actively combat poverty within Sub-Saharan Africa. Here are some of its success stories:

Jane Nalwadda

Jane Nalwadda is a woman from Uganda born with an obstetric fistula. Her condition left her unable to have a child with her husband who consequently left her after three years of marriage. The abandonment left Nalwadda without a reliable source of income. She fell into utter despair until a friend recommended the Kitovu hospital to her. There she would be eligible for a free fistula repair surgery program. Here is where Microfinancing Partners in Africa stepped in.

The nonprofit established the microfinance program The Piglet Project. The program helps women make money post-fistula repair by helping them raise and breed pigs, eventually creating a sustainable business. Jane was able to raise $29 with her first litter of pigs, which enabled her to build a better pen. She now has a steady means of making a living and can build a promising future.

Bujugo Village

Bujugo is a tiny village in Tunisia that has clean water accessibility problems. The village received seven water filters from Microfinancing Partners in Africa in 2019. Villagers then received training to use the filters and developed a time table to maximize the amount of village usage. Now, 49 families receive clean drinking water because of this microfinancing program.

Florence Mbaziira and Joseph Mbaziira

Florence and Joseph Mbaziira are an older couple from Uganda who works on a farm with mostly unproductive land. They tirelessly worked on their farm to support themselves and their four grandchildren. By 2014, the family was still living off a small income that came from selling the produce that they grew. Afterward, they turned to the Cow Project.

Microfinancing Partners in Africa created the Cow Project to support farmers through a “living loan.” The Mbaziiras took full advantage of the program and bought a cow for their land. Microfinancing Partners in Africa trained them to use the cow’s manure to increase crop yields. The couple now grows coffee, bananas and seasonal foods. Thanks to microfinancing, the Mbaziiras are able to support their family through their own farming business.

Saida Juma

Saida Juma is a divorced woman with two children living in Tanzania. Previously, she worked as a maid for $5 a month. However, her passions were elsewhere. She had the desire to start selling fish. Juma worked with Microfinancing Partners in Africa to obtain a microloan of $50. With the money, she was able to go into business for a local fisherman by selling fish. Her earnings are enough to support her children as well as send them to school. Her goal is for her children to be well-educated and take over her business when she retires. She also plans to take out another $100 loan soon to buy a fridge to store unsold fish.

All of these people were struggling to survive. Microfinancing Partners in Africa’s varied programs were able to help inspire and empower them to gain a livable income. Microfinancing Partners in Africa helped increase the quality of life for these people and many others, proving that microfinancing is an effective way of fighting poverty.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

Certified B Corporation
Business Fights Poverty, a Certified B Corporation, began in 2005 to provide a network for businesses, organizations and other professionals. This organization believes in the principle of purposeful collaboration. It aims to unite influential businesses to add social change to the list of successes of groups across the world. Business Fights Poverty recognizes the underlying potential of uniting worldwide businesses to battle social issues such as poverty. Business Fights Poverty has implemented several influential actions during 2020. Here are four impressive examples of actions that Business Fights Poverty has taken to combat global poverty:

4 Initiatives of Business Fights Poverty During 2020

  1. Business Fights Poverty created a network of more than 28,000 businesses and organizations fighting poverty. The staff and content creators of this Certified B Corporation span across the globe. Moreover, this organization has a long list of partners with global influence. Among these partners are Walmart, Nestlé, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and Visa. Business Fights Poverty also partnered with content creating organizations to expand the reach of its content. Also, this is to increase collaboration among organizations fighting for social change. This extensive network of partners allows Business Fights Poverty to collaborate with organizations that hold different business goals and different content creators, to increase awareness surrounding global poverty.
  2. Business Fights Poverty holds free online conferences with influential business leaders to educate people on collaborative impact. Easily accessible from its website, Business Fights Poverty releases a weekly calendar of live-streamed conferences and webinars. Additionally, a major perk here is that if people cannot watch these conferences in real-time, they can watch them on the website. Previous conferences include discussions with business professors from Harvard University and the University of Oxford about the relation between social inequality and poverty. The future ones include discussions with members of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City. These free conferences provide an accessible way for people across the globe to educate themselves and learn from influential leaders in business, education and other Certified B Corporations.
  3. Business Fights Poverty offers opportunities for individuals to contribute to its website via content creation or discussion forums. The idea of collaboration spans further than collaboration among worldwide businesses. Business Fights Poverty offers numerous ways for any individual to collaborate. For instance, the ability to apply for freelance work and online forums of open discussion with experts in different fields. This again serves as a way for individuals to educate themselves through discussion with professionals. Additionally, it allows them to delve deeper into becoming involved with the organization. Business Fights Poverty makes its purposeful collaboration accessible through a few clicks on its website. This has contributed to its growth in global partners.
  4. Business Fights Poverty motivates contributors and partners to move towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 goals developed by the U.N. to foster a more sustainable, global future. Two of these goals include no poverty and zero hunger. Business Fights Poverty considers one of its organization challenges as advancing toward a world that reaches these goals. By advocating for this change, the organization contributes to a global plan to combat poverty and hunger. The SDGs remain a focus in the conversation and content present on Business Fights Poverty’s website.

The Outcomes

The major outcomes of Business Fights Poverty have been reflected in the businesses and corporations it collaborates with. For example, since its involvement with Business Fights Poverty, Walmart paid its full-time workers $3 above the living wage of an adult in the U.S. in 2019. Also, it has the goal of training millions of employees in career growth strategies by 2025. Since 2015, Visa has assisted over 160,000 lower-income individuals in creating accounts and becoming involved in the financial system. Moreover, Business Fights Poverty has created a network of awareness. The actions of these major corporations set a positive example for customers and smaller businesses. This example urges people to stay aware and improve their strategies to assist those battling poverty, among other personal financial struggles.

Business Fights Poverty recognizes the impact that a Certified B Corporation, large-scale businesses and general corporations can have on battling the poverty crisis. Through education, collaboration and progress towards a common goal — this organization has dedicated itself to making a social change. As the network grows from its already substantial start, businesses can find success in assisting in the fight to combat world hunger and poverty. Finally, as for individuals, the organization’s website offers many ways to get involved that are worth exploring.

Evan Coleman
Photo: Flickr