A Review of Objectives, Activities, and Future Plans AWCCI, Organizational Document (V6) - Page 16

In March 2018, the AWCCI met with officials from the Government’s Industrial Parks Directorate to learn more about existing policies related to park operations and influence future policies in favor of Afghan businesswomen. Shortly thereafter, the High Economic Council approved the transfer of a Government owned industrial facility on the outskirts of Kabul to AWCCI’s management, to be used as an industrial park available exclusively for women-owned businesses. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) generously supported the renovation of the facility, while UN Women funded a much-needed research trip Hyderabad, India, so that AWCCI staff and members could learn about industrial park operations from a prominent Indian women’s business association (ALEAP). Set-up of ‘Female Friendly’ Business Registration Facilities Over the last several years, the process of registering a business in Afghanistan has gone from being tedious and relatively expensive to being streamlined and nearly cost-free. With that said, many Afghan women may find themselves apprehensive about a visit to the Afghanistan Central Business Registry (ACBR), which is dominated by male staff and visitors. Fortunately for the cause of promoting Afghan women business ownership, the ACBR was extremely receptive to concerns about female accessibility expressed by the AWCCI. Following an agreement with the AWCCI to collaborate on matters related to women’s business registrations, the ACBR set up women-only registration counters for female entrepreneurs who may otherwise feel uncomfortable applying for a business license. Future Investment Support Goals: The AWCCI has the following plans to support Afghan women who wish to invest their time and capital in building a business: • Investment guides: Preparing investment guides covering different sectors of the Afghan economy for the use of Afghan women investors • Industrial parks: Continue to rally support among AWCCI members and partners for the creation of industrial parks, and within them industrial clusters, that are able to generate economies of scale Advocacy and Raising Awareness Objective: Ensure that the importance and contributions of Afghan businesswomen in the Afghan economy are recognized and promoted, and the perspectives of Afghan businesswomen are considered in both Afghan Government and international organization policies and programs 15 Advocacy and Awareness-Raising Initiatives and Activities: Future Advocacy and Awareness- Raising Goals: Securing Literal ‘Seats at the Table’ for Afghan Businesswomen While the AWCCI has been particularly effective in terms of advocacy and awareness-raising, there is still more work to be done. This includes: In contemporary Afghan history, Afghan women have had little to no influence in the economy-related decisions of the Government, and additionally have been nearly invisible in regional forums related to economic connectivity. This has changed dramatically with the growing strength of the AWCCI. The AWCCI now represents the interests of Afghan businesswomen in a number of Government bodies and working groups related to business, including the High Economic Council (HEC) and the Executive Committee for Private Sector Development (PriSEC). The AWCCI is also vigilant when it comes to ensuring that Afghan businesswomen are considered in planning sessions for international organizations (e.g. the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industries), are represented in the steering committees for donor organization projects (e.g. GIZ’s Sustainable Economic Development and Employment Promotion project), and secure invitations to participate in international forums on Afghanistan (e.g. the 2018 Geneva Conference on Afghanistan). Oversight of Development Initiatives While international development organizations have provided significant moral and material support for Afghan businesswomen, there have been instances where certain women-oriented development initiatives have been planned without taking into consideration the views of actual Afghan women. In these cases, the AWCCI is able to serve as a watchdog of sorts, by gently encouraging the organizations in question to see the error in their ways. Additionally, the AWCCI freely offers its support to development organizations that wish to meet with Afghan businesswomen and solicit their views. Bibi Khadija Awards Every year the AWCCI organizes the Bibi Khadija Awards, an event where Afghan businesswomen are recognized for innovative and ambitious entrepreneurial endeavors. The purpose of the awards is to draw attention to the contributions of women- owned businesses in the Afghan economy. The awards are named for Khadija bint Khuwaylid, the first wife of the Prophet Mohammad who is also believed to be the first convert to Islam. At the time that she married Mohammad (PBUH), Khadija was also one of the most successful traders in Mecca. The fact that the first Muslim convert was a financially independent businesswomen should be seen as example in Afghanistan and other Muslim societies that Islam does not put any limitations on women engaging in business pursuits. • Women-friendly Government procedures: Tax filing, government leasing, and other bureaucratic procedures require easier procedures for women, and the AWCCI has submitted and will follow-up on proposals to address the concerns of small-scale women business owners • Provincial awareness-raising: Organize provincial committees in order to conduct advocacy and awareness-raising targeting local authorities such as governors, mayors and provincial councils, to ensure that they are aware of businesswomen’s existence and match the support and attention currently provided by the central Government • Developing a National Women’s Business Agenda: Develop a comprehensive agenda outlining the short, medium and long-term issues that require concerted advocacy, both at the national and sub-national levels Capacity Building for Businesswomen and Female Entrepreneurs Objective: Provide training to Afghan businesswomen and female entrepreneurs to increase their knowledge in various subjects related to business Capacity Building Initiatives and Activities: Skills & Awareness Training From the start of 2017 to the present, the AWCCI, conducted 86 training sessions with 1,910 participants. The topics covered by the training were identified by AWCCI leadership as being in demand among their constituents. These have included (but are not limited to) the following topics: • Afghan Government tax regulations: Reviewing Afghan tax law for women business owners, in order to achieve compliancy and avoid burdensome tax penalties • Afghan Government public-private partnership law: Introducing businesswomen to the concept of public-private partnerships (PPP), and the procedures for developing a PPP with the Afghan Government • English language for business: Instruction on basic English vocabulary and grammar commonly used in business-related communications • Financial accounting: Providing an overview of the foundations of financial accounting, i.e. tracking outgoing cash, documenting incoming revenue, and monitoring fixed and variable operating expenses Business Startup and Expansion Support Included in the above-mentioned totals for training programs organized by the AWCCI are training sessions and programs that are intended to help Afghan businesswomen and entrepreneurs launch or scale-up businesses. • Startup program: In collaboration with other organizations, the AWCCI has operated startup support programs that are intended to give aspiring female entrepreneurs the tools and motivation to launch a new business • Strategic planning: Organizing sessions in which current or aspiring female entrepreneurs are assisted in laying out short, medium, and long-term plans for a business concept Future Capacity Building Goals: In the area of capacity building, the AWCCI has developed the following future plans: • Collaboration with EPAA: Conduct at least one session with the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan (EPAA) on export guidelines, including INCOTERMS, letters of credit, etc. • Export Training: Work with the ITC on training in exports specifically geared towards Afghan women exporters • High-Demand Skills Training: Initiate training programs in high-demand niche skills, like digital marketing • Business Guides: Prepare A-Z guides for startups and expanding businesses • Women’s Resource Center: Identify and outfit an appropriate space in Kabul and other urban hubs where women can receive information on a range of issues, from licensing procedures to tax compliancy. • Afghan Government procurement laws: Receiving instruction directly from officials at the National Procurement Authority (NPA) about procedures for bidding on Government contracts 16