Business, Finance & Economics

Afghan businesswoman succeeds

Hosai, who asked us not to use her real name, is an oil distributer in western Afghanistan. This week her business plan earned her a $3,000 dollar award from the Business Council for Peace, which recently brought her and 11 other Afghan businesswomen to the U.S. for consultation and training. I met Hosai at this oil company's headquarters in Massachusetts. She says she usually dresses like this, in a business suit and a headscarf in Afghanistan. (Why are you the only businesswoman concerned about having her picture taken and not using her real name?) I live in Harat and that environment is not conducive to someone like me having her picture taken, it's for safety reasons.

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Hosai is 35 years old and has degrees in chemistry and biology. She was a teacher for five years but the Taliban forced her out of her job, so she opened a school in her home. After the Taliban was kicked out, she borrowed $80,000 recruited some partners, and started her own fuel distribution business. She now has 18 employees, 4 of them women. I asked her how she went from teaching to her business.

Hosai: I saw a need in the market and the possibility that I could import fuel. At the time there was not infrastructure so I saw I could supply this and help Afghans. (How do you do the work you're doing when it's so hard and dangerous for women to be in business.) My own eagerness was a compelling force. The reason I've succeeded is that I have a great family support and that has been my pillar. Harat used to be safe but it's now it's quite dangerous, but also the government of Afghanistan has supported me. (What have you learned by visiting businesses in the U.S. during this trip?) In Afghanistan, we don't have any guidelines or training, we have no education about how to start your business so that's how this has helped.

Hosai feels like the U.S. military could kill Al Qaeda and the Taliban if it really wanted to. She thinks America has not had a clear policy and if they did, all this would not have happened. Hosai is hopeful the chaos of Afghanistan will eventually settle down, and she's been paying close attention to the U.S. presidential race, hoping the next president will provide more assistance to Afghanistan. Hosai has pledged to share what she's learned in the U.S. with other women in Afghanistan.

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