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    KAIA Bazaar Provides Much Needed Income for Women Vendors



    Story by Vladimir Potapenko 

    438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

    KABUL, Afghanistan - By women, for women. That is the intent of the Afghan Women’s Bazaar held at Kabul International Airport Nov. 21. With nearly 40 female vendors selling homemade goods ranging from dolls to dresses, the bazaar is an economic outlet for women who may not have such an opportunity otherwise.

    Unable to safely sell their products in the city, where female vendors are uncommon and frowned upon, many women turn to male middlemen for the distribution of their handmade goods. These middlemen, intent on making a profit, pay the women less money than what they could earn if they sold directly to consumers. The reliance on male distributors means less profit and a smaller return on investment. This is exactly what has brought many of the 40-plus vendors to KAIA, where the security of being inside the wire permits these women to shed their profiteering middlemen.

    If someone buys a scarf from one of the women at the bazaar for three dollars, then those three dollars go directly into the pocket of that vendor. All of it and every single penny that these Afghan vendors make at the bazaar is money that they genuinely need, said Sweeda Kazemi, who with her business partner Storai Jalal helped set up the event on behalf of the Afghan Women’s Project, a charitable organization aiming to empower and benefit the women of Afghanistan.

    “All of them [the vendors] are in need of earning money and taking food home. Some of them have husbands who have been disabled due to the war; some of them are widows and have nobody else but themselves. A majority have more than five kids and they’re the bread earners of the family,” said Kazemi. “We can go to each booth and I can tell you each individual story, but that’s going to take forever.”

    Each purchase at the bazaar not only directly helps an Afghan woman support herself and her family, but it is also a springboard to self-empowerment and relevancy in a nation known for its lack of women’s rights. A notion not lost on the KAIA service members who made their way to the event.

    “If you look at the history of Afghanistan, women’s rights have not been in the forefront for a long time, and now we’re finally being able to establish that in this society. Events like this, where women are able to put their handmade products out there and sell them on their own, put them in power and control of their own fates,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Stephen Jeffers, a supply advisor with the 439th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron.

    The third such event at KAIA, the bazaars have proven to be very lucrative for the vendors, with one event raising over 10,000 dollars for the women. With these kinds of results, Kazemi hopes that the bazaars become a monthly staple on the base and other bases in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan.

    A large scale event that requires coordination, the Women’s Bazaar would not have been possible without the help of NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan volunteers. Ten NATC-A volunteers, including U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Peter Tascione, a C-27 maintenance advisor with the 440th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, were instrumental in setting up the vending booths, bringing the women and their good on base and serving as escorts. The help provided by these volunteers not only ensured the bazaar operated smoothly, but it also reflects to the Afghan women the spirit of service and goodwill found among NATO troops, said Tascione.

    “From the first time they have met me and other volunteers our trust level has grown. They understand that we are here to help them and that our actions are genuine,” said Tascione in reference to the vendors. “I have been asked before why it is we do this for them. My answer is simple: because I would hope someone would do it for my family if they were in the same position.”

    It is this type of help that makes Kazemi, an expatriate who has spent the past 31 years living outside of her native Afghanistan, appreciative of NATC-A and KAIA participation.

    “I just want to thank all of you guys for making this opportunity,” she said. “It’s great to be here and be able to help.”



    Date Taken: 11.21.2010
    Date Posted: 11.23.2010 04:55
    Story ID: 60698
    Location: KABUL, AF 

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