Support for Entrepreneurship and Women’s Empowerment Among U.S. Priorities in South and Central Asia

Afghan women gather during the opening ceremony of the Sahar Gul net cafe, the first internet cafe for women, opened in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 8, 2012. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Robert Blake serves as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.

Rabia Mariam is a businesswoman who employs an all-women workforce to manufacture scarves and rugs from silk, cotton-silk blend, and wool in Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan. Working with the USAID IDEA-NEW program, she employs nearly 1,000 women — many of them widows. Many of these Afghan women raise silkworms at home and boil cocoons, and go to weaving centers to weave the scarves and other handicrafts. Rabia’s work is bringing economic opportunity and hope to Afghan women.

I had the privilege of meeting Rabia and learning about her work at the South Asia Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium, which was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh last month. The event exemplifies several of our bureau’s highest priorities… more »

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