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My Fight to Break the Concrete Ceiling of Gender Inequality in Afghanistan

In 2010, I founded Afghan Citadel Software Co., an IT company, in a country in which only 15 percent of the female population is literate,...

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In 2010, I founded Afghan Citadel Software Co., an IT company, in a country in which only 15 percent of the female population is literate, female oppression and subjugation is the norm, and a conservatism dangerous to anyone who wishes to change societal relationships lingers after the reign of the Taliban. Now, with 25 employees, 18 of whom are women, Afghan Citadel has become the foundation for social change and the elimination of gender barriers in my country. Over the course of the last three years, it had always appeared that each step forward would continue to bring larger challenges.
I would like to tell you about those challenges, how imperceptible change was at first, and how we Afghani women, with the growing support of the world, continue to break through the barriers that we face.
Afghan Citadel employs mostly women in an effort to empower them in the eyes of their families. Many believe that women should stay at home to care for the entire family; the idea of having women go to work met resistance everywhere. As more women began to sneak to work or work remotely from their homes, we began to see a trend. Perhaps not surprisingly, husbands become decent advocates for their wives' new jobs once they begin seeing extra money trickle into the home, which can give the woman a powerful supporter in the debate with mothers and mother-in-laws over whether she is fulfilling her familial duties.
Enough women proved the worth of their employment and education to the entire family to make a success of Afghan Citadel and its employment policy. Having taken small steps towards unsettling the balance of power in families, we began investing all of the company's profits into a program to build computer classrooms with Internet access for for girls. A boy's education is supported financially, but families do not support females. Girls are not supposed to go to Internet cafes.

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