From where I stand: Atefe Mansoori

Date: Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Atefe Mansoori, 52, from Afghanistan, is Director of Abdullah Muslim Company, which processes and exports saffron.
Photo courtesy of Abdullah Muslim Company

Farmers didn’t think that I would be able to handle this business, because I am a woman and this is not a woman’s job.

When I started working to process and export saffron to international markets, the farmers and saffron producers didn’t want to give me their saffron to process and export because they thought that as a woman, I was too weak to handle this business. With the help of my husband and male members of my family, I sat down with the saffron producers and I explained to them that I have good knowledge, some experience and the ability to run this business. I assured them that they would not suffer losses if they put their trust in me. After many discussions, a couple of saffron farmers agreed to work with me, to test whether I had the ability to handle this business.

Then, I had to convince women to work with me. In my village, women were not used to working outside the home. I talked to their husbands and other members of their families and explained to them the benefits of working outside the home. I told their husbands: ‘your wives and daughters will earn money to boost the family income. And the place where your women would work are all full of women.’ After many, many conversations with each family, they agreed to work with me. Now most of them are businesswomen and they run their own companies.

Gaining visibility, however, brought with it death threats from the religious extremists because I was going out in the markets. Despite several challenges, I never gave up because I knew the only way to eliminate violence against women is to help women become economically independent and empowered. With this in mind, I worked hard and struggled to help women to learn, work and earn. And this worked.”

SDG 2: Zero hunger
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

Atefe Mansoori, 52, from Heart Province, Afghanistan, is Director of Abdullah Muslim Company, which processes and exports saffron. She is among 120 female entrepreneurs and businesswomen from across Afghanistan who gathered to share stories and learn from each other at a workshop organized by UN Women in Kabul in December 2015. Ms. Mansoori’s work in her country is related to the internationally endorsed Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 2 aims to end hunger and boost the productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, including women; and SDG 8 focuses on promoting inclusive economic growth, and supporting productivity, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, and improved conditions for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Read more stories in the “From where I stand...” editorial series.