The woman with bundles of strength  

Najia

I was born into a middle class family, the youngest of 4 girls. My father died when I was 4. Despite delays from fighting during the Mujahidin period, I graduated from high school and then studied nursing in Jalalabad. During the Taliban era, I was able to work with my sister who was a doctor and I spent part of that time in the village of Allengar in Nuristan as a midwife, and later in Kabul as a pharmacist. After the Taliban left, I began to work as an administrative assistant to the director of World in Need.

At that time, I was engaged and now I am married and I have two children. The oldest is five years old and the youngest one is six months. I had been living with my in-laws for four years and there were a lot of problems. I began to think that I should separate from my husband, but if I did that I’d have to give my sons to him. (The law says that the sons stay with their mother until they are five years old and the daughters till they are seven. Then the kids are handed over to the father’s family to raise.) So I said okay, let me find another solution. I called a meeting with my husband’s family and we sat together and we decided to live separately from my in-laws. Now it’s going okay.

Now I’m working for USAID and I teach the procurement law to the staff of the ministries. We train the trainers who are going to all the provinces of Afghanistan. This is a new thing because before there was no law, there was just a manual.

Also, I am starting my own business. I got a chance to study business at American University with the 10,000 women program. So I started there. This course was very helpful and I learned how to make a business plan and how to do the marketing.

My husband does the marketing for my business. You know, it’s not easy for a woman to do business or to go and talk with people outside. I personally don’t need my husband to do this but these shopkeepers are very lowly educated and they don’t think that a woman should have a business or have a factory. So that’s why I hired my husband. Also, I cannot trust anybody else. Of course I’m doing the financial things and all the accounting but I need someone to take care of distributing and marketing.

What did all of this teach you?

It taught me that I cannot be like other women, shy and not confident. If something is very difficult I tell myself that I can do this. And so I do it; even if I’m afraid or think I might fail. I decide first, and then I tell myself I can do it. I just pray for guidance and then make a strong decision.

When someone tells you not to do something and you want to do it, what do you do?

I fight with them. Man or woman, I will fight with them. I will tell them I want to do it, it’s my right and I will do it if it’s a good thing. If it’s bad, I will think about it and I will leave it. But if it’s good, I will fight and I will do it. I fight by discussing it because it’s my right. If it’s good for me I will do it.

Profile and pictures provided to us by and copyrighted to Peggy Kelsey, of Kelsey Photography taken from her book “Gathering Strength: Conversations with Afghan Women

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