Ghor Province’s Craftswomen Battle Shrinking Markets

Craftswomen in the province of Ghor are facing economic hardship due to the lack of market demand for their handmade products. These women, who were once able to earn a good income from selling their handicrafts, now struggle to make ends meet. The handicraft market in Afghanistan has been stagnant for the past two years, exacerbating the economic challenges faced by these women who are often the primary breadwinners of their families. Furthermore, poverty and unemployment have become pervasive issues that affect all citizens of Afghanistan. Recent reports indicate that over three-quarters of the population rely on humanitarian aid for their livelihoods. These challenges have intensified in the past two years, and the situation has put significant pressure on Afghan society as a whole.

Sima, a skilled craftswoman from the province of Ghor, has been providing for her family of eight for almost eight years through her expertise in handicrafts. In an interview with Hasht-e Subh Daily, she reveals that the residents no longer show any interest in purchasing handicrafts. Sima shares, “I have dedicated eight years of my life to embroidery. In the past, when I completed an embroidered cloth, it would be sold right away. However, now all the clothes that I make remain unsold at home, with no buyers.”

Sima explains, “We used to sell men’s embroidered clothing for five thousand Afghanis, and if the embroidery was less intricate, we would sell it for one thousand and five hundred Afghanis. However, nowadays, no one requests these garments anymore. I have sewn several pieces for sale, but they are still sitting at home, waiting to be sold.”

Fatima, another experienced craftswoman with five years of involvement in handicrafts, expresses her concerns. She states, “I specialize in crochet and embroidery on various items such as clothes, scarves, tablecloths, handkerchiefs, and pillows. However, nowadays, there is no demand for these products, not even in other provinces as it used to be.” Fatima explains that the stagnant handicraft market has led to a decrease in her production. She mentions that in previous years, their handicrafts not only had a strong market within the province of Ghor but also received orders from other provinces across the country.

Fatima highlights that a significant portion of her crafted items was intended for bridal trousseaus. She explains, “Previously when someone was getting married, they would place orders for handkerchiefs, pillows, decorative boxes, embroidered tablecloths, and various other items to include in their trousseau. However, now, due to their unfavorable economic circumstances, no one, including brides, purchases these prepared items.”

The province of Ghor is renowned for its women’s craftsmanship, including needlework, embroidery, pleated skirts, crochet, bead embroidery, decorative bags, pillowcases, traditional cloths, tassel-making, and gloves. In the past, these crafts enabled many women to sustain their families. The craftswoman elaborates that during the Republic regime, young people eagerly purchased embroidered clothes for festive occasions such as Eids and Nowruz, as well as joyous gatherings. However, due to the deteriorating economic conditions in the country, young people now lack the enthusiasm and purchasing power to invest in handicrafts.

Previously, the handicrafts created by women in the province of Ghor thrived in a flourishing market, thanks to the robust economic conditions. Embroidered clothing, in particular, garnered significant interest among Ghor residents. Men’s embroidered clothes fetched prices ranging from 1,500 to 5,000 Afghanis, Palivar embroidery reached up to 5,000 Afghanis, Velvet Embroidered Cloths or scarves sold for up to 4,000 Afghanis, and other embroidered clothing commanded prices between 2,000 to 5,000 Afghanis. However, given the current unfavorable economic situation, both Ghor residents and many citizens across the country now deem these expenses excessive and unnecessary.

Previously, tailoring shop owners in the province of Ghor have also expressed their discontent regarding the lack of work. They report a significant decrease in workload, even during festive occasions such as Eid and Nowruz.

Craftswomen in the province of Ghor are voicing their concerns about the declining market for handicrafts, coinciding with the two years of poverty that has affected the country’s citizens. Reports from international organizations reveal that more than 70% of Afghanistan’s population is reliant on humanitarian assistance. As a result of unemployment and poverty, many young people are abstaining from buying non-essential products.

Achim Steiner, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, expressed concern over the severe living conditions in Afghanistan, highlighting that the extent of the economic collapse is unprecedented. The United Nations Development Programme recently published a report outlining the challenging living conditions in Afghanistan. The report suggests that the improvement of Afghanistan’s situation is unlikely without the release of the country’s assets held in the United States. However, United States officials have previously stated that Afghanistan’s assets will not be released until the Taliban fulfills their commitments as per the Doha Agreement. The United States has set preconditions, including the formation of an inclusive government, severing ties with terrorist groups, and upholding human rights and women’s rights, for the release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets.