Feroza, a tailor from the Arghawan Group in Nahar Shahe District, is decorating some of her work, with her child sitting next to her.

Feroza, the 22-year-old mother with plans to expand her enterprise

Feroza was one step ahead of Hand in Hand when we arrived in Balkh, the north Afghanistan province she calls home. At 22, she already earned a small income tailoring clothes for her neighbours. Still, even by the modest standards of her small village, money was tight. So when she heard Hand in Hand was offering business training she jumped at the chance.

Since then her income has quadrupled, bringing the new mother off subsistence wages and elevating her status at home and in the community.

Balkh province, Afghanistan

Tailored market research

“Before (joining a self-help group) I didn’t know about market surveys or pricing,” says Feroza, putting the finishing touches on an ornate red shawl as her daughter looks on. “I’ve also started sewing seasonal products and selling at the markets in Mazar-i-Sharif (the closest major city). It’s made a huge difference; I now earn 3,775AFN (US $68) a month.”

“My new income means I can spend money on my daughter the way I think is best, without waiting for husband’s approval”

Future sewn up

Afghanistan’s child mortality rate is the highest outside sub-Saharan Africa: 99 out of every 1,000 children die before turning 5. (In Sweden, as a point of comparison, that number is 3 per 1,000.) Education, though improving, has historically been rare: only 7 percent of rural women are literate.

Feroza weaving. Still, Feroza has every reason to be hopeful about her daughter’s future. Besides enabling her to buy more nutritious food, a growing income will help pay for crucial healthcare to protect her daughter from illness, and school supplies when she gets older.

“My new income means I can spend money on my daughter the way I think is best, without waiting for husband’s approval,” she says. It’s no surprise. Across the developing world, $0.80 of every dollar earned by women goes to families. Men, by comparison, spend $0.30.

And that’s not the only benefit for the future. To meet the growing demand for the bedding and clothes she tailors, Feroza has taken on three young women from her village as apprentices, some of them mothers themselves. Each earns a share of the income from the pieces they sew, and all have plans to become fully-fledged tailors.

Ever the entrepreneur, Feroza has no intention of stopping there. “I plan to expand my enterprise, hire and train other women, increase my production and target new clients,” she says.

 Feroza’s results

Monthly earnings 3,775 AFN (US $68)

Able to provide healthcare, nutritious food and education for her daughter

Hired three apprentices from local community