Improving Business Skills – Creating Sustainable Livelihoods
On a cold winter morning, when all else is calm, a burst of activity rises from RET’s Community Learning Centre in Fayzabad. Twenty-two young business owners from different trades – shopkeepers, carpenters, blacksmiths, farmers – have gathered in the training room. The atmosphere is friendly, but focused. Some are engaged in discussions with RET’s tutors, others bend over flipcharts, while a group is drawing business logos. Goods and products, costumer relationships, costs and benefits are but a few of the topics addressed. This is RET’s Small Business Development Training.
The training, which is provided by a RET consultant specialised in business development and management and local tutors, is part of RET’s wider programme in Fayzabad. Thanks to the generous support of Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, the programme promotes the social and economic empowerment of young women and their families.
RET initiated the business development training at the end of January 2013. It targets family members of the learners enrolled in RET’s Community Learning Centre and helps them create small businesses or improve existing ones. Based on an analysis of their situation and the commitment they demonstrate, 90 participants (of which 68 are women) were selected.
In this business development component, the participants do not only receive the necessary training, but additionally RET organises personalised visits and counselling sessions. Each business and business owner is treated uniquely.
For the young entrepreneurs aspiring to create a completely new business, essential management skills are provided along with support in the form of tools and materials. All these services are based on a thorough analysis of the most urgent needs of each trainee. RET also helps those who are interested in establishing contacts with financial institutions for small loans.
The response of the first participants of the Small Business Support Trainings was very positive. As one of the participants stated: “Until now, although I work very hard, I wasn’t able to make ends meet, as I have eight family members to support. This training has helped me understand what I can improve in terms of customer relationship, basic accounting and marketing.” These trainings respond to a real knowledge gap and encourage innovation, the heart of successful business ventures. “So far, I have been doing things without really knowing a lot about business, simply imitating what I have seen around me. Now, I have many new ideas and am motivated to put them in practice.”
In Fayzabad, education is a tool for the integration of women in Afghan society, to empower them socially and economically and to contribute to the stabilisation of communities. RET does this on a daily basis through its activities of the Community Learning Centre. The Small Business Development Training complements this approach. It proves to be a precious resource, adding to the income of families, while demonstrating that women are vital actors of Afghanistan’s economic development.