Marwa Akrami is a 20-year-old girl who lives in the town of Hairatan in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. She lives with her parents and has a brother and three sisters. Marwa joined the project “Training the People of Hairatan City of Balkh Province, Afghanistan, to Launch Micro-Enterprises.” She joined a bag-making training class to learn the skills and launch an enterprise.
She started when she was very disappointed about the situation and her future, as she explained: “When I graduated from school, the Taliban came to power, so I was very disappointed, and I decided to do something for myself and my family, which was suffering from poverty.” Then I heard about this project from one of the HIHAO employees in our neighborhood, so I decided to attend the project, and I made an effort to practice and learn. Before I was somehow familiar with tailoring and sewing but I was not familiar with designing and sewing bags. I liked the course and profession, so I started to learn.”
Marwa is very happy about what she learned and earned during the learning process and the launch of her business, not only in the material sense but also in the spiritual sense. As she says: “I showed the first bag I made to my father, and then he encouraged me very much, and he said, “You can do that,” Marwa continues. He always bought me fabrics and ply to make bags from, which made me very happy. My mother encouraged me, too: “On top of that, I’m the first and top student in the class, and now I have four students to teach, including my mother, one sister, and two close friends.”
Not only this, but she shared her knowledge and skill with her two uncles’ wives in Kunduz province. When they were coming here to Marwa’s home from Kunduz as guests, they saw her business and skills and asked her to teach them. She taught them how to sew a bag. Also, she went to Kunduz with them to sell her own-made bags. Now, these two women are selling bags to people in Kunduz and Badakhshan provinces, and they are also teaching others.
Marwa’s family was not in good economic condition, and everything changed when she established her bag-making business to help her parents and her sisters and brother. She says: “Before, my father was the only one to earn and bring money into the house, and his income was only AFN 100 daily as he was working as a worker in a garage.” “Life was tough with all our needs and the low income with just one worker in the family.”
She just listed all that she learned from the project and what she got from the loan in groups: “I took a loan of AFN 5,000 once, and AFN 4,000 again.” We used it to buy plywood, fabrics, tools, and other materials for the bag. That money made my whole business start-up. When I sold all the bags, I made some money and paid off the group loan. Again, the tools we received from projects as necessary elements in business enabled us to take the first and most basic steps. “All that I started and did was from the HIH project ideas and lessons, and that changed my life completely, not only in business but in my perspective of life as well.” She added.
“I remember that I worked for 7 days to make one bag. The bag sample was very complex in design, so I tried too hard to make it. Finally, I was able to make it in 7 days, and that was the most challenging moment of the project,” Marwa says of her challenges. The rest of the time, everything went swimmingly thanks to HiH’s fantastic team and trainers.
Now, Marwa and her mother are working together, and she has a good monthly income and can support the family with her earned money in different cases of need. Marwa says, “We earn around AFN 6,000 every month.” We earned more than AFN 12,000 when we went to Kunduz Province; I and my mother worked on making bags there. We invested AFN 1,000 in the elements and tools of bag making, and we earned AFN 6,000 after selling everything. Also, I get fees (AFN 150-250) from the students who are learning bag-making skills from me.
“We can buy whatever we want for the house.” I joined the project intending to help my family, and now I’m able to do it. In the last few months, I made an investment and opened a small shop for my father; my father also contributed some money to the shop’s construction, and now I give my father around AFN 1,000 per quarter to spend on milk and dairy products in his shop. My mother and I are making bags together, and my sister is assisting us, so we have a family business. I’m able to buy what I need and like freely, and that is enjoyable. My mother used to rely on my father’s pocket for necessities, but now she is self-sufficient and can assist my family as well. I and my mother give money and provide for the needs of the rest of the family, like my small sisters and brother. “Before I ask my father for money, I felt ashamed, so now I don’t need to ask my parents for money even though I can help them.” She spoke.
She says that her work and business made her very proud and powerful, as he is saying: “I cannot forget the moment when I gave the money to my father; he was so excited and he said: “I’m proud of you, Marwa. Now I have a strong daughter to support me, so I don’t need a son to make me proud and provide support.” Along with that, everyone in society knows me as a young girl with a good identity and background, which is an honor for me. “I can support other girls by teaching them my skills, something I get from the project, and that all changed my perspective on life and my belief in my ability, which makes me confident.”
Having a factory that produces bags is her big ambition. Besides, she wants to continue her education in journalism and media fields, so she wants to work hard and earn money to pay her fees.
She says about her business plan for the future “I want to have more students, and I’m pretty sure I will have more than 20 next month as it’s winter break for students and they are interested in joining my classes.” Besides that, I want to increase production as I can recognize the high demand. “All I need to do is buy a standard sewing machine, so I collect some money, and I need to add some more to make the money shortly, which will be helpful to expand my business.”
In the end, she wants to deliver a message to other girls and women: “Don’t waste your energy, talent, and time by sitting free in your home.” Do assist your family, improve your skills, and try to be a positive influence in your family and community. Also, use the valuable opportunity that organizations like HIH provide for us and try to make the project a success.”