Afghan women defying countless restrictions

Afghan Women’s Restaurant/Image/Khaama Press.

In Afghanistan, women face multiple layers of restrictions, often rooted in undesirable customs and practices driven by low education levels in society. The resurgence of the Taliban regime has further obscured these restrictions under the guise of “religious” or “Afghan cultural” norms, leading to Afghanistan being ranked as the worst country for women for the second consecutive year. Despite numerous challenges and instilled fear, some resilient young girls run private businesses, pursue education, and are dedicated to personal growth and combating ignorance. This report highlights the story of a young woman managing a women’s restaurant in Kabul.

Samira, a young woman, has created a restaurant in the Khair Khana area that employs over 20 women who are heads of their families. At 31 years old, Samira not only owns the restaurant but also works shoulder-to-shoulder with 20 other women daily, serving customers.

Samira completed her education in short-term business courses and is striving to continue her university studies in this field. She currently oversees the “Afghan Women’s Restaurant” and a tailoring workshop that provides training in the sewing profession to underprivileged girls.

Samira’s small establishment, ‘Afghan Women’s Restaurant’ not only serves as a place where people can buy affordable food but also creates job opportunities for many women, all in a time when women and girls lack security in various parts of the city.

Afghan Women’s Restaurant/Image/Khaama Press.

This restaurant, by cooking local, affordable, and delicious food, has managed to attract a large customer base from the bustling areas of Kabul’s Khair Khana neighbourhood.

The prices at Samira’s restaurant start from 5 Afghanis and go up to 150 Afghanis. This has led to a steady stream of customers flocking to the Afghan Women’s Restaurant in Khair Khana daily. Here, not only is mouthwatering cuisine prepared, but special occasions like birthdays and small gatherings are also celebrated affordably.

In response to the question of how she has succeeded amidst these increasing restrictions, Ms. Samira said, “When women support each other, they can succeed. Success knows no gender boundaries.”

She added, “We have approximately three categories of employees: girls who were students, girls who are currently in school, and women who are heads of their families and take care of their own dependents.”

Delicious dishes like Ashak, Mantu, Samosa, and Bolani are among the most popular items at this restaurant, and the number of daily visitors keeps increasing. However, Samira personally addresses the various challenges that arise.

She states, “We face many challenges, including attempts to intimidate us, occasional power outages, and sometimes direct or indirect efforts to prevent customers from entering our restaurant.”

These problems and obstacles often come from individuals who own shops near the Afghan Women’s Restaurant. Such harassment has recently become a serious concern for Samira.

Samira explains, “Restaurants run by men located near our restaurant try to harm us.” She added, “It has been at least two months since the Afghan Women’s Restaurant has been operating without electricity due to these issues.”

Afghan Women’s Restaurant/image Khaama Press.

While expressing her concerns about the fate of the women working at her restaurant, Samira recounted, “I have heard several times that the owners of shops and restaurants next to ours playfully tell their male apprentices that it’s your fault that a woman has managed to disrupt your market and our restaurant.”

Ms. Samira adds that she initiated the Afghan Women’s Restaurant with an initial investment of 7,000 Afghanis. This entrepreneurial woman is now working to expand her representation and employ more women from the earnings of this restaurant.

Although many women-only restaurants have been established in Afghanistan, Samira explains that in the previous government, she was able to employ 500 women by running a tailoring workshop. However, after the change in the regime, her workshop ceased operations, and she started the women’s restaurant in August 2021. According to her, it was the first restaurant managed by women after the resurgence of the Taliban administration.

Samira has not only opened doors for dozens of young girls to learn the art of tailoring alongside the restaurant but has also provided an opportunity for girls who have missed out on formal education. She has managed to create a platform for them to acquire tailoring skills through the cooperation of her former trainees from the tailoring workshop.

She clarifies that she doesn’t profit from teaching tailoring to these girls; her only goal is to assist women and girls who, for various reasons, have been deprived of their basic rights.

Samira hopes that the current situation will change, and people will come to terms with the fact that women have the right, both legally and humanely, to work outside their homes.

Afghan women defying countless restrictions