War, terrorism, opium ... that's what comes to mind when people think of Afghanistan. Women under the Taliban faced dire circumstances, but today we are fortunate to work with strong, resilient women. We know we are entering uncharted territory and know there are risks, but the rewards are far greater. One reward we are the proudest of is empowering the women of Afghanistan.
The wars, the Taliban, and the instability has made it especially hard for women in Afghanistan. As a whole, women are a little less than half of the 34 million people living in Afghanistan, yet are only 16% of the workforce and 21% of the student population according to World Bank statistics from 2014-- and these numbers are something to be proud of for a country that was in a state of war for 30+ years.
Rumi Spice would not exist if it was not for the women of Afghanistan. Strong, smart women building stable communities. We rely on under 4,000 women during our time of harvest and in operations is 23-year-old Aaliyah. She runs all operations with six men reporting to her.
“I am not powerful because of Rumi, but Rumi gives me the platform to be powerful.” She said on an interview in December of 2018.
Aaliyah started working with saffron five years ago, working the harvest quality control, and eagerly moved her way up to a management role. She is shy with her English, but not with her smile or her ambitions. She is planning for her future, proudly showing off a photo of her and her fiancé, and is going to school for management and accounting. Her fiancé is fully supportive of not only her college education, but of her working after marriage-- a scenario that would have been rare years ago. It is women like Aaliyah that are laying the groundwork for the future generations of Afghan women.
Her optimism is fueled with the knowledge that life in Afghanistan has not always been this easy. Her father was taken by the Taliban 16-years-ago, so at age 8 she helped her mother raise her younger brother and sister. Jobs at the time were few and far between and women working just a few. Rumi Spice’s investment in the region has given opportunity to its women and not only has given them a stable income, but has made the province a safer place.
“Compared to other provinces we are very safe here and there is less violence against women,” Aaliyah said.
Safety and stable work for women are important, but so is creating social ties for women that once could barely leave the house. Roya, 20-years-old, has been working with us for 2 years and wants to be a teacher.
“I have made all new friends and didn’t know any of the women before working here.”
She is the only one working, besides her mother, to help raise her 3 sisters and one brother.Jalal al-Din Rumi said, “Woman is the light of God”. And for us, Woman is the light of Rumi Spice.
Disclaimer: Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals