"I just make myself more invisible in the society" while "becoming more visible" on the Internet, Mahboob, 26, a computer science graduate of
Retreating behind the electronic veil of the Internet isn't an option for
"I grew up in the war, and I've spent a very difficult time in the past," she said through an interpreter at her factory, recalling that when the Taleban ruled
not be repeated."
At risk of loosing freedom
Women such as Mahboob and Sherzad are at risk of losing the freedoms they've won since
"Insecurity might increase at the provincial level, and that could limit the freedom of women, particularly their movement in terms of their political participation in the provinces and in terms of their businesses," said
Afghan women have gained legal rights and protections in the last decade. Women are now 27 per cent of the country's parliament and have started to join police forces. A decree signed by President
Those gains are tentative, the
Since Afghan National Security Forces took the lead role from US and other foreign forces in the middle of last year, "insurgent threats to women have increased," according to the
While some of the candidates for president have affirmed their support for women's rights, the Taleban say that if they return to rule or share power they will bar women from wearing Western clothes and girls from sharing classrooms with boys.
"A change in the current Afghan constitution is highly required to keep Afghan women's rights low,"
In the same province, Lieutenant Negar, 38 a female police official who like many Afghans went by one name, was shot and killed in September, a few months after her female predecessor was killed in a similar fashion, the
"There are real fears of losing the progress that has been made," said
In the last decade, Women for Women has trained 46,000 Afghan women, providing them with skills to operate small businesses. The group also has distributed
Together, they've invested
In addition to the 20 workers at the factory, the company employs 300 women who work from their homes and turn out hand-made embroidery, Sherzad said. The products are sold in
In a country where conservative groups still forbid mixing genders, the partnership between Ahmad, 50, and Sherzad stands out all the more because they belong to tribes that traditionally have clashed.
She's a Pashtun and he's a Hazara.
Amid uncertainty over a presidential election scheduled for April and the departure of most foreign troops by year-end, "There's a fear if Taleban return to power, we'll lose all the progress we've made," Ahmad said. "She will not be able to come work here, and I will not be able to reach her."
In contrast, a select group of Afghan girls and women who've grown up in the last decade, gone to school and are familiar with computers may find online sanctuary if Mahboob's online initiative succeeds.
Internet penetration in
Internet users per 100 people in 2012, according to the bank.
It lets women work from their homes to produce content that's then featured on social-media websites. Advertising revenue generated by the sites is shared with the content creators, Mahboob said.
"We have created a technology that shows influence" and a scoring system that indicates the popularity of content that members of the Women's Annex develop, Mahboob said. "Based on that they can make
Mahboob's business is based on Film Annex, a technology that her Italian business partner, philanthropist
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