By: Somaya Mandgar
When the Taliban returned to power one year ago, Gulshan Montazeri initially wanted to flee the country like millions of Afghans who saw no future to live in Afghanistan. But she decided to stay and continue her work as an embroidery artist.
One year later, the country is on the verge of a total economic collapse. Unemployment rate is at an all time high in two decades. Twenty four million people need urgent humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations.
Women have been disproportionately impacted by extreme poverty because the Taliban’s government imposed restrictive regulations on them specifically aimed at driving them out of the job market. The exact number of women who have lost their jobs is unknown, but by some estimates, it could be as high as tens of thousands.
Montaziri was also forced to close her shop in Nili city, the provincial capital of Daikudni. But she continues running her small embroidery business from home, generating income for herself and seven other women in Daikundi.
“Thank God,” ۳۴-year-old Montaziri said. “I am happy with my business.”
She receives orders from her clients from different parts of the country and even abroad, then she hires other women to sew designs on clothes, pillow and mattress covers, and other ornamental fabrics.
Montazeri has also created a Facebook page to advertise her products. She said most of her customers place their orders via Facebook.
She makes 15,000 Afghani monthly, an amount around 200 USD, to feed her family of five including three children and her husband. The women who work for her make up to 4,000 Afghani monthly each — not a significant amount — but good enough not to starve to death.
Montazeri is a high school graduate, and she learned the art of embroidery in Herat around 12 years ago. She has been producing beautiful artworks and training students for nine years.
“My students are now working independently. They receive orders, and work. They are in a very good situation,” she said.
Montazeri’s work is unique, and that means it is not only money that she makes — sometimes she receives compliments from her customers who praise her artistic work.
She said she fulfilled a dowry embroidery order a while ago, and the mother of the bride called her from Kabul.
“If you were close to me,” Montazeri recalled being told. “I would kiss your hands.”
Her business has fluctuated in the past two years. It was good during the former government, but went through a downturn in the first five months of the Taliban rule. However, the number of orders she receives recently has spiked again.
But the overall economic situation remains alarmingly stagnant across the country.
Many reasons could be behind the sluggish economy, according to economists. Foreign aid has evaporated after Taliban takeover of power, millions fled the country, taking their financial assets with themselves.
But the restrictions on women employment could also have cost the Afghan economy up to one billion USD as the United Nations had warned last year.
Montazeri is aware of this fact, that is why she calls on the Taliban that “they should also let women to work, and shouldn’t restrict women, and that they shouldn’t create fear and terror.”