This Is What It’s Like For Female Entrepreneurs In Afghanistan

It’s been 15 years since U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan. In the capital city of Kabul–the world’s fifth-fastest-growing urban population, which jumped from half a million in 2001 to over 4.6 million–the Afghan government struggles against a worsening humanitarian situation. As U.S. and NATO troops continue to withdraw, so do international aid workers.

Typically, the burden of international problems such as poverty, disaster, and war are left exclusively to governments and nonprofit organizations. In recent years, a new approach has emerged. Social entrepreneurs are spearheading job growth and stability, and a burgeoning private sector seeks to stabilize the economy and break the dependency on foreign aid.

They walk a fragile line. They must build networks with trusted government workers, the international business community, young students, and professionals. Many Afghan business leaders hope to attract investors who will bet on them to secure hard-won gains in human rights, especially for women.

Shetab Afghanistan, which translates to “accelerator” in Persian/Dari, is a newly launched incubator and coworking space offering mentoring and acceleration services for social innovators, activists, and entrepreneurs. Founders Ajmal Paiman and Azadeh Tajdar launched their first lab to support six startups this September. This included the first female participant in Shetab’s emerging network, a country ranked to be the most oppressive in the world for girls and women.