Written By: Zahra Rashidi
The transformation of a woman from being a student to a successful entrepreneur while also fulfilling the role of a mother may seem unfamiliar in today’s Afghanistan. However, in this report, you will read about the precise journey of a female entrepreneur named Soraya. She was born in Herat, experienced the deprivation of education during the early days of the Taliban’s rule, and now manages saffron and detergent production factories to support single mothers. Her story is a testament to the resilience and determination of Afghan women in the face of adversity.
Soraya Daqiq, a woman hailing from the land of Gulchehra Begum, was in the sixth grade in 1996 when her education was abruptly halted. This happened because the Taliban had taken control, and, much like today, girls were deprived of their right to attend school. Soraya’s deprivation from education eventually led to her marriage at the tender age of 14. Reflecting on her early marriage, Soraya, whose own daughter is now deprived of access to higher education, lamented, “I was married at a young age, following the prevailing customs and culture of society, just like many other girls who have been or are being forced into early marriages during childhood.”
However, after the September 11, 2001 attacks, when the United States rallied its allies to combat the Taliban and the Bonn Conference was convened to establish a constitutional government that would uphold women’s rights, Soraya once again began to contemplate pursuing her education and chase her dream.
Simultaneously juggling motherhood responsibilities after marriage, Soraya persevered through a wave of challenges and completed her economics degree at a government university in Herat.
Where Did Soraya’s Success Begin?
Soraya is a 39-year-old mother, a creative entrepreneur from Herat who, through selling her gold jewellery, managed to establish a saffron production factory. The creation of this factory has provided employment opportunities for women who have husbands struggling with addiction.
Soraya Daqiq, the owner of “Guhar Naz Saffron” company, stated in her interview with Khaama Press, “Five years ago, with the gold my husband had bought, valued at around 300,000 Afghanis, I founded the saffron production factory in one of the areas in Herat.”
Having studied economics at university, she could assess the business risk and relied on her academic knowledge to set up her factory. Although the money from selling her gold sometimes made her doubt her decision, she ultimately put aside any hesitation, saying, “I never thought, ‘Maybe you can’t handle this and don’t waste your money, time, and youthful energy for nothing.’ But I was determined because I had confidence in my goal and the work I had started.”
Soraya attributes her success to her university education, an opportunity that her daughter and thousands of other girls are currently deprived of. She explained, “During my university courses, I prepared a test project for the university and received encouragement from my professors. This led me to start a saffron factory by selling some of my gold during my university studies.”
Soraya’s Efforts towards Empowering Vulnerable Women
The women employed in Soraya’s saffron production factory are either widows, dealing with husbands addicted to substances, or part of a group of women and girls who are denied permission to attend school by their families or the Taliban administration government. Soraya, who is familiar with the experience of being deprived of education, told Khaama Press, “History has repeated itself.”
She is a successful female entrepreneur and an advocate for women’s rights. She describes the purpose of establishing the saffron production factory as creating employment opportunities for women facing economic challenges and responsible for supporting their families for various reasons.
She said, “By establishing this factory, the tables of dozens of families have turned colourful, and single women no longer fear loneliness and economic hardships.”
Soraya truly comprehends her success in its most total sense when she sees “smiles on the faces of women.” She says, “Seeing the women working in the factory gives me a wonderful feeling of peace, contentment, life, and vitality.”
Soraya enjoys the support of her family and the support of the women employed in the “Guhar Naz Factory.” Dozens of women who have finally found employment in this factory under Soraya’s leadership after years of unemployment are delighted.
After establishing the saffron production factory, Soraya ventured into setting up a detergent production factory. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus in Afghanistan and the rising prices of detergents, she decided to establish another factory and, to learn the detergent production process, travelled to Iran.
Soraya’s Success in Career and Family Support
Soraya attributes one of the key factors behind her success to her family’s unwavering support and trust, particularly her husband. She says, “Family support, especially the support of my husband, has been instrumental in my journey.”
Working women worldwide, especially in Afghanistan, face various internal and external career challenges. Balancing work and career planning with limited time can create a conflict between family and work. Soraya has also experienced this phase but has always had the support of her family members.
Soraya explains, “I’ve had to leave behind many aspects of life: social gatherings, spending time with family, and even my two sons don’t want me to work at all.”
While she was busy working in the factory during the day, Soraya attended university at night, and she acknowledges, “This sometimes created a gap between me and my family, whether I liked it or not. But we managed to overcome all the challenges together.”
Her husband also collaborates when necessary in matters related to Soraya’s factory: “My husband works alongside me in external affairs of the saffron factory, and when there are obstacles from the government, he assists me in external matters.”