April 18, 2011

Kamela Sediqi, One of Afghanistan’s Youngest and Bravest Female Entrepreneurs

First off, I am a major advocate of women’s entrepreneurship on a global basis especially with women and girls in Afghanistan.  Entrepreneurship has saved so many women in the United States from abusive challenges and homelessness that it is not unthinkable that it would be an answer for women and girls in war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Rwanda.  The difference with Afghanistan is that before the Soviet invasion it was not unusual for women to be as we might say “just like their peers in Europe or the United States”.  In fact, before the Russians decided to step into Afghanistan, their girls in some respects were more highly educated than those in the United States-they wanted to be engineers and scientists-believe me in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the United States, very few females wanted to be engineers, scientists or even business owners.  I was in the minority-believe me-and I had to fight my father all the way to even consider being a business major with a goal to own a business (this was in 1967 in Oklahoma).

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach is the story of Kamela Sediqi who became an entrepreneur at the age of 19 to keep her family together and to keep them alive.  Her younger sisters became a part of her team of young seamstresses who decided to take a leap of “faith” and build a dressmaking business.  Mind you, this was no ordinary dressmaking business in an area of Kabul Afghanistan-their specialty became dresses for wedding parties.  Now-for anyone who has ever considered making a wedding dress-that is a feat in itself.  I designed and made the wedding dress of a friend many years ago while living in Breckenridge, Colorado.  I also did the bridesmaids dresses which were almost as difficult as the wedding dress.  In other words, creating a business that specializes in wedding party apparel is a stressful endeavor. In a country like Afghanistan a business owned by a young female entrepreneur can cost the owner her life.

What I think is amazing about Kamila’s (Kamela) is her entrepreneurial spirit.  That is the spirit many young girls, high school girls, in the United States have that is never nurtured or supported.  Kamila’s father was very big into his daughter’s being educated.  She had a risk taking spirit as well as a faith that told her if God was for her, nothing could stand in her way.  You need to read Gayle Tzemach’s book The Dressmaker of Khair Khana to get it-Kamila knew in her heart if she was to accomplish her goal and also do her part to keep her family and community alive, her God would take care of her.

Kamela also defied her older sister at one point in time because she really thought she best.  Would you stand up to your sister in a life or death situation to move forward with your entrepreneurial spirit?   Would you consider moving from a well-orchestrated seamstress business to a construction business?  In an area where females are considered not so bright? Today this young courageous Afghan woman has followed her entrepreneurial spirit for 15 years.

Do you have an idea for a business that you know will make a difference for your family and your community?  Do you have the hutzpah (chutzpah) to start a business even when the “gossip” of your neighbors, friends or community might get in your way?  In Kabul, Afghanistan gossip is a way of life and may get in the way of a young girl receiving her education or being a success.  Do you have the courage to move forward to become a teen CEO with your business that will make a difference in your life and those around you? By the way-it does not mean you have to be a social entrepreneur or a change maker. It means you are following your inner spirit to create something you know will make a difference to others and to yourself.

What do you think?  Let us know by responding to this blog post or contact us on our Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/girls-ceo-connection or on Twitter @girlsceoconnect.  Look forward to your responses.

Sylvia R.J.Scott, Founder Girl’s CEO Connection™

Co-author of the forthcoming book, Realizing a Vision, Your Toolkit for Success. Words of Wisdom for Young Female Entrepreneurs