Women Excluded from Balkh Province’s Domestic Products Exhibition

The courtyard of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali in Mazar-e Sharif City hosted a five-day exhibition showcasing 70 manufacturing companies’ domestic products and handicrafts. However, the event did not include craftswomen, and female traders faced restrictions due to the Taliban’s policies. The purpose of the exhibition was to support domestic production and promote industrialists’ activities. Booth owners and professionals in Balkh province welcomed this exhibition as an opportunity to showcase their products. Nevertheless, they also complained about the lack of a market for domestic products. Female traders claimed that the Taliban barred them from displaying their handicrafts and entering the Shrine of Hazrat Ali.

The exhibition “Beautiful Balkh” came to a close on Sunday, May 7th. According to some of the exhibitors, their sales significantly decreased due to the poor economic situation of citizens.

Sami (pseudonym), one of the exhibitors at the “Beautiful Balkh” exhibition, expressed his thoughts to the Hasht-e Subh Daily saying, “Although it’s good to hold such exhibitions and people come to see what’s being produced in their own country, the economic situation of people has deteriorated significantly, and no one can afford to buy anything. Our sales were excellent in previous years, but to be honest, we have no sales now.”

The country’s unemployment rates are increasing daily, and many citizens are facing economic difficulties to the extent that they cannot afford necessities. Shabir Ahmadi (pseudonym), an industrialist from Balkh province who works in the beverage production sector, believes that providing more facilities for industrialists can lead to more employment opportunities and have a significant impact on reducing unemployment rates.

Female traders who had a strong presence in past exhibitions have been banned from participating in the “Beautiful Balkh” exhibition by the Taliban. Shabnam (pseudonym), a female trader from Balkh province, told the Hasht-e Subh Daily that no booths were provided for women at this exhibition. Shabnam added, “The current rulers turn restrictions on women into a pastime, and every day they impose whatever comes to their minds on women. I have been producing handicrafts for several years, and several women work with me. We were informed of every exhibition that was held, and booths were provided for us. However, we were not allowed to participate in this exhibition, and women were not even allowed to enter the shrine to see the exhibition. It is very disappointing.”

Imamuddin Sanaizada, the head of the Union of Industries and Mines in Balkh province, has reported that industrialists are facing serious challenges and emphasized the need to address them. According to Mr. Sanaizada, “Afghanistan has suffered from devastating wars that have caused significant economic and industrial losses.” He also stated that “the absence of a permanent exhibition venue and high electricity costs for producers are major challenges that need to be addressed to support industrialists in the province of Balkh.”

Reports indicate that more than 500 manufacturing factories are currently active in the industrial parks of Balkh province. However, nearly 50% of these factories have been inactive for the past two years due to various reasons. The active factories produce items such as iron, cardboard boxes, steam boilers, biscuits, salt, PVC pipes, beverages, dried fruit packaging, food grains, and food materials.

Despite the second exhibition of handicrafts and domestic products held in Balkh province this year, challenges for industry owners continue. Since the fall of the Republic regime, many Afghan investors have left the country, fearing extortion by the Taliban, and have transferred their capital abroad. In the two years since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, most economic activities have been in recession. Rather than collaborating with industrialists and craftsmen, Taliban officials have increased taxes imposed on business owners to more than triple the previous rate. Even individual Taliban members collect taxes from peddlers.