Hours after teenaged Kamila Sadiqi earned her teaching certificate in 1996, the Taliban rolled into Kabul. Her dreams to become a teacher were dashed as she spent endless hours at home in forced seclusion with her mother, father, five sisters, and two brothers. As the Taliban’s grip on Kabul tightened, men with ties to the previous government disappeared or were killed. Fearing for their lives, her father returned to his family home in the north and the oldest brother left for Pakistan. The women were left with no source of income and family savings dwindled quickly.
Desperate to help her family survive, Kamila asked her oldest sister to teach her dressmaking and help her find some customers. With the Taliban’s restrictions on the market, demand for quality dresses was high, and Kamila was soon overwhelmed with orders. She taught her sisters to sew, and then trained women in the neighborhood.
Soon she had one of Kabul’s most successful businesses — all of it hidden from view, behind the walls of her family compound. Her younger brother escorted her to the marketplace where she could take orders, but at enormous risk.
Today, Kamila says, “It was an unbelievable experience. There was such fear that the Taliban would come after me for running this business and taking orders in the marketplace. But it was empowering to go out and speak to others about my dresses and what they wanted as customers.”