Meet Frozan, who has created a buzz around Marmul

Frozan, 18, lives in north Afghanistan, a corner of the world where teenage women get married, not work. Still, that never stopped her from dreaming. “We are a big family and my father, a farmer, was the only one earning – it was never enough. I have always wanted to do something to help, to be an independent person, but I didn’t know how.”

Didn’t, that is, until she met Hand in Hand. Frozan joined a Self-Help Group and quickly became a star pupil. Training led to a business plan, which led to a loan from fellow group members. Finally, she was ready: the newest, youngest and only female beekeeper in her village. Her business has not only helped put her through school, but it has done the same for her younger sisters and even helped her parents provide for the family.

Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh Province, Afghanistan

A need for empowerment

Although the fortunes of women in Afghanistan have improved significantly since the Taliban regime collapsed in 2001, they still face regular discrimination and restrictions against working and studying outside the home, according to UN Women.

A lack of self-confidence and local traditions can make establishing a business difficult for women, even though they can benefit from a greater status in society if they contribute economically to their communities.

Approximately 39 percent of Afghans live on less than US $1.90 a day, which the World Bank classifies as extreme poverty. In addition, only 7 percent of rural women in Afghanistan are literate, with Human Rights Watch recording that 85 percent of the 3.5 million Afghan children who do not attend school are girls.

Keeping busy

As a student with plans to enrol in higher education, Frozan had already achieved more than her peers, but a desire to empower herself economically would not let her stop there.

After joining the Shogufa SHG, Frozan attended regular meetings and supplemented her schoolwork with training on microfinance, bookkeeping and business development.

“I was keen to have a business from the first group meeting until I completed [business development] training, when I understood how to run a business and what I should consider before starting a business,” Frozan said. “Therefore, with the help of my trainer, I developed a business plan.”

Frozan carried out a study of the Marmul district in the Balkh province in northern Afghanistan and learnt that there was a high demand for honey. After further research, she discovered that beekeeping doesn’t require much labour – a perfect arrangement for a full-time student – and so she applied for and obtained a microloan of 10,000 afghanis (US $140) so that she could purchase two boxes of bees.

 

Sweet success

As the first schoolgirl in Marmul to keep bees, the SHG taught Frozan the skills she needed to look after them, as well as how to extract the honey and improve its quality and volume.

After her first year, she had harvested 16 kg (35 lbs) of honey, making enough to not only repay the microloan but to leave her with a small profit. She invested that back into her business by buying more bees, and last year, she earned 120,000 afghanis ($1,728) from the 120 kg (265 lbs) of honey produced by a collection of what had grown to 20 beehives.

“After first year of my business, I was amazed to see the results,” Frozan said. “I repaid the loan and expanded my business. Now I am paying school expenses of my two younger sisters, helping my dad in home expenses and I have my own savings for emergencies.”

Frozan’s classmates have told her they have been inspired by her business and that they would like to set up their own.

Meanwhile, Frozan is hoping to move to the nearby city of Mazar-i-Sharif to continue her education, either to study economics or train as a teacher, allowing her father, Ismail, and sisters to continue to look after the business while she is away.

“Women having a business like me can help their families to overcome financial challenges, save for emergencies and take active part in developing economy of their communities,” she said.

“Now I have learnt how to manage my activities and time, and work confidently in order to improve our lives. I am also saving for expanding my business, which will in turn generate more income for me in the future.”

Frozan’s results

Increased monthly income from 0 to 10,000 AFN (US $144)

Able to contribute to school fees for her sisters

Inspired classmates to create their own businesses