Mushtary standing at the counter in her shop.

Meet Mushtary, Rejin’s first female shop owner

Mushtary is breaking new ground: she is the first female shopkeeper and entrepreneur in the rural village of Rejin, Afghanistan.

A shop to stave off hunger

Mushtary’s shop |Products on shelf | Balk province, Afghanistan

Mushtary’s shop |Products on shelf | Balk province, Afghanistan

The regular profits from her business enable her to supplement the small and variable income the family gets from farming. “Farming in our area is risky because we rely on the rain and if the weather is not right then we lose everything. The shop means that even in the bad times we can buy food to eat.”

Initially Mushtary and her neighbours joined the Self-Help Group set up by Hand in Hand Afghanistan in their village out of curiosity but quickly realised that there was so much they could learn. Together the group of 20 women began saving a little money each week to build up a group savings fund and learnt basic business skills such as bookkeeping.

Historically the people in Rejin village are farmers, so the majority of the women in the group decided to use their new skills to branch out into animal husbandry. Mushtary had other ideas. She and her husband had struggled for many years to support their family on the income from farming but they could not rely on this income. Everything depended on the weather. Mushtary saw an opportunity to stabilise the family income.

Rejin’s first retailer

Rejin is an isolated rural village. Women have to travel long distances to buy everyday household items and Mushtary realised that if there was a shop in the village, all the local women would chose to buy what they needed here. So, Mushtary borrowed from the group fund in order to buy the initial stock of clothes. These sold so well that Mushtary made a profit of AFN 5,000 (US $96). From this small beginning she went on to borrow a further AFN 10,000 (US $192) and has now opened a shop selling tea, sugar, biscuits, chewing gum, shampoo, washing up liquid, soap and many more necessary items.

“Even in the bad times we can buy food to eat”