Since its inception in 2006, Zardozi’s mission has been to address poverty and improve household livelihoods by providing support to Afghan women wishing to generate their own income through micro-business. Zardozi focuses on work with women with limited or no formal education. In the process of engaging in local markets, Zardozi also aims to influence and expand market systems to be more inclusive to women workers in the informal economy, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of Afghanistan’s business sector.
In recent years, Zardozi has made important contributions in understanding of informal and sectoral markets and the actual and potential contribution made by women in Afghanistan. Both this research and Zardozi’s market experience and engagement have enabled the programme to achieve significant empowerment gains for the women with whom it works (‘clients’, to use Zardozi’s standard term).
More recently, Zardozi has begun to focus directly on women’s economic empowerment (WEE), taking advantage of, and contributing to, the rapidly developing global understanding of the wider socio-economic gains to be made through WEE, and of the challenges in achieving it in Afghanistan.
In the short term, Zardozi aims to target primarily women in families below the poverty line who are interested in earning and managing their own income through a micro-business. Zardozi seeks to meet the needs of women with special needs such as female-headed households, war widows and the disabled. Men are also included in programme activities.
Zardozi’s focus is on economically empowering women in different provinces through training, supporting micro-enterprise start-ups and market access, with continuing support through women-only Community Business Centres operated on a fee-paying basis.
In the longer term, Zardozi supports empowered women to work collectively through a civil society organization – Nisfe Jahan – that promotes the rights and protection of women and girls. Zardozi is providing administrative support, training and mentoring to enable Nisfe Jahan to become a more capable and self-sustaining body, able to support empowered women, including linking them to other civil society organizations and government agencies
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