The gem stone industry and its mining has a long and respected history in Afghanistan, going back some 7,000 years before the conflict stalled it. Investor reports note that Afghan rubies, emeralds, sapphires, lapis lazuli, and a number of semi-precious stones, are recognized internationally for their high quality.
Aisha Aziz is smart for taking up this old art form. As a successful Afghan women entrepreneur with over 26 years of business experience in Afghanistan, she had graduated in 1991 from Roshan University, under the Faculty of Literature. However, due to the conflict her initial career started as an educator at several schools in Pakistan. While living there, she established the Afghan Schools Council and helped the displaced Afghan community to educate their children.
It was only in 2006, several years after the fall of the Taliban, that she finally started her own business as an artisan of precious stones, initially just selling the stones. In time, she learned the art of gem cutting from Mr. Ustad Nabi, a famous teacher, then later taking a training course in India. Women have been recognized by the international donor community as a crucial potential workforce in revitalizing the stalled gemstone industry.
Aziz’s company began to design and produce jewelry and precious stones for home decorations. As the success of her gemstone business grew, she participated many national and international business exhibitions and shared her work with the public.
While her work as an artisan was quite successful, she wanted to grow as a businesswoman in terms of the skills that are useful to creating a more efficient and adaptable business. Aziz made the choice to develop herself as the CEO of her company by attending a certification course designed for women at The Women's Center (TWC), an institution dedicated to advancing the role of women in Afghanistan’s economy located at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).
“Before attending the professional development training, my business activities were in a scattered form, with no standard policies and manuals. However, afterward I have established useful policies and systems including, a marketing strategy, communication policies, financial management manual and a computerized system, which all together brought efficiency and productivity to my company,” says Aziz.
She isn’t the only one who has noticed the improvement. A banking association has recognized her as a business management mentor for a group of 24 working members. Her success has earned her the opportunity to assist other Afghan female entrepreneurs. She now employs 35 workers, five men and 30 women. As her crafting business gains recognition, she is working with her team establish her company as a credible and well-known brand. Aziz also wishes to establish an institute and laboratory for processing and testing precious stones in Afghanistan.
As a mentor and a successful businesswoman still dedicated to learning, Aziz is combining her two loves, stone-crafting and education.