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A 19 year old, Kamila Sidiqi’s life changed overnight when Taliban took control over Afghanistan. Kamila was a student of the local college in her area. When she earned her teaching certificate, her only plan was to continue higher studies at the university. At that time, she had no idea how life is about to take a turn for her. By that time, Taliban had established their rule but even under the scrutiny of their regime, she embarked on a journey to become a leading entrepreneur whom people can now look upto and get inspired.
Kamila was the third child of her family. She had three sisters and one brother, who took the role of her Mahram. Mahram is a male member of the family who will accompany the female member when she steps out of the house. She was born and brought up in a city named Khair Khana and all she wanted to do was to learn and to teach, but her dreams were shattered with the establishment of Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 1996. Taliban inspired by the Sharia law of Islam, banned women from studying and doing any kind of job. Women were supposed to wear burquas and follow a certain set of rules. They could not go to the market on their own and even if they wanted to, they had to be accompanied by the Mahram. Kamila’s father and her elder brother were forced to flee from their hometown due to safety reasons. This was because of their involvement in peace spreading activities with a group which was opposed by the Taliban.
The Beginning of her Journey:
It was very difficult for Kamila and her sisters to stay at home and do nothing. Savings were running out and there was no source of income. The whole responsibility of the family was on the shoulders of this 19 year old teenager. Kamila thought that she had to do something to support her family.
One day in market, she saw a woman purchasing some clothes and that’s when the idea of becoming a seamstress striked her, but how can a woman work under the rule of Taliban?
Where there is will, there is a way too. Kamila learnt how to sew from her elder sister who was a talented seamstress and then taught the same to her younger sisters. She created some samples and took them to the market. Now comes the real challenge. Taliban guards were all over the market place like hawks. If they came to know what Kamila was doing in the market, she could have been killed by them that very moment, but she managed to show her samples to a shopkeeper and even managed to grab the order. Along with her younger sisters, she managed to deliver the order on time. She took several dangerous trips to the market to meet local shopkeepers and get the orders. Her determination and will to do something was greater than her fear of the Taliban. Every time she was out with bag full of orders, kamila knew the degree of risk she was taking, but her determination was stronger than her fear. This was the beginning of Kamila’s success story and from that day onwards, she never looked back.
The business expanded tremendously and Kamila had to employ women from different neighbourhoods as well. Soon, she became the employer of more than 100 women. She even started a training centre where women were taught the art of sewing. Even at the time of extreme poverty and helplessness, she was able to made the effort of helping hundreds of women become financially independent. She followed a very simple business plan: to make good quality products and deliver them on time. She continued to expand her business even under the wrath of Taliban, by taking risks and following her instincts.
THE ESTABLISHED ENTREPRENEUR:
In 2004, Kamila set up her own company, Kaweyan Business Development Services, which was the first Business Development Training providing company of Afghanistan. Today she runs a group of companies including KBDS, a consultancy firm, Baawar Consulting Group which performs research and evaluation work and The Naweyan Naween Import Export Company which deals in exporting Afghanistan’s famous dry fruits.
For Kamila, promoting the welfare of her fellow Afghanis was an issue which was always close to her heart. Her desire to help the people of Afghanistan resulted in the establishment of an NGO by the name of Parneyan Training Centre and Rehabilitation Organisation. The NGO has done commendable humanitarian work. Kamila also launched the first women owned cab service which even received national recognition.
STARS ALWAYS SHINE THE BRIGHTEST IN DARK NIGHTS:
All the hard work done by Kamila paid her very well. Kamila’s strongest weapon was a packet of needle and thread along with her unbreakable determination. Her brilliant idea helped an entire community of woman who are now independent. The world came to know about this entrepreneur when American journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon met Kamila, while on a trip to Afghanistan as a part of her case study. Gayle was finishing her MBA at Harvard University and later on published a book, “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family , and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe” narrating the struggle of Kamila’s journey.
She received international recognition for her work at the 10th Anniversary US Global Leadership Campaign in 2005. Currently, she has undertaken the office of Deputy Chief of Staff (Admin and Finance) for the past 11 months along with playing the role of CEO of Kaweyan Group.
As a responsible citizen of Afghanistan, she believes that developing enterprises is the key to reconstruction of her nation. Presently, her focus is to identify all the opportunities and make use of them in nation building effort in Afghanistan. Kaweyan Group has been formed with this particular goal only. She is focused on creating more and more employment opportunities for Afghani people.
Kamila is a self made entrepreneur. Starting with the basic skill of sewing, she is now a leading Afghani entrepreneur and a true source of inspiration to all afghani women, who lack the courage to stand up for themselves and their rights. We salute her willpower and fearlessness which helped her climb the ladder of success. Just like any woman, she always had the option to quit and sit back at home but she opted the other path of “trying to make a difference”.
Kamila is truly a source of inspiration to all of us and completely sets an example that hardships are not an excuse you can use to avoid your responsibility.