Your initial image of Afghanistan is probably war, Taliban, bombings, insurgency, and corruption. And you'd think of girls and women as victims. Think again. Think innovative, successful women entrepreneurs. Indeed. In her numerous visits to Afghanistan and other conflict and post-conflict regions in the world,Gayle Tzemach Lemmon discovered another reality as well: that it is commonplace for teenage girls and women to build successful businesses in order to support and feed their families while the men are fighting.
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
In her new book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, Lemmon brings this point to light by telling us the compelling story of one heroic teenage girl--Kamila Sidiq. In the spring of 1997, Kamila and her little sisters began what became a thriving business in her home in Khair Khana, just outside of Kabul, right under the noses of the Taliban. After sewing and selling a few dresses to feed her family, she ultimately built an enterprise that would train and employ many dozens of relatives and friends so that they could support their families as well. At tremendous personal risk, Kamila sourced fabrics, developed markets for the dresses among area shopkeepers, established an assembly line process, priced the goods, and managed sales and human resources--including the carefully timed flow of employees over an 18-hour cycle in order to escape notice of the Taliban.
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