UNITED NATIONS (Agencies): Despite significant challenges, women-led businesses in Afghanistan are showing extraordinary resilience, becoming crucial pillars of economic stability and hope in challenging times, according to a new report by the United Nations.

The report, titled ‘Listening to Women Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, Their Struggle and Resilience,’ was released by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on Wednesday. It analyzes data collected over the past three years, offering an in-depth look into the evolving circumstances of women entrepreneurs in the country.

“Women entrepreneurs have shown incredible determination, courage, and ingenuity under the most severe conditions,” stated Kanni Wignaraja, UNDP’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

The research disclosed that women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan encounter a variety of obstacles and high costs in conducting business. Intensified discrimination and operational limitations, along with a significantly weakened financial system, have pushed 41% of the over 3,000 surveyed women into debt.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents reported severe restrictions on movement, such as being unable to travel to local markets without a male guardian. Only five per cent reportedly received loans from banks or microfinance institutions.

According to the UNDP, in Afghanistan, where a total of 15.8 million people are food insecure and the employment rate for working-age women has dropped to six per cent since last year, women are finding ways to address these challenges.

Entrepreneurship has emerged as a lifeline for women and their families, with 80% of women-led enterprises relying on their business revenues as their primary source of income. Women-run businesses are also creating much-needed job opportunities for other women.

The UNDP, along with its partners, has supported 75,000 micro and small businesses, which collectively have created employment opportunities for more than 900,000 individuals who, in turn, support their families.

“Women have long been the driving force behind the welfare of households in Afghanistan and play a crucial role in sustaining local economies,” said Stephen Rodriques, UNDP Resident Representative in Afghanistan.

He added that the agency continues to amplify their voices and highlight the benefits of investing in women. “Their courage and resilience in overcoming the odds tell a compelling story of fortitude and hope. They need international support, and this report provides additional insights on how we can support them. The future of Afghanistan depends on them,” he emphasized.

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