April 12, 2021, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan – On April 8-9, the United States, through its Agency for International Development (USAID) hosted a two-day webinar: ‘Women in Crafts: Opportunities for Connectivity and Digital Trade’ for women artisans and handicraft producers across Afghanistan and Central Asia to better understand market demand, identify new markets, and improve product quality. This training was held as part of USAID’s Competitiveness, Trade and Jobs activity and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Over 100 participants from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan attended representing female artisans and handicraft producers, representatives from business women associations, non-governmental organizations, e-commerce platforms, and the Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries. The learning event blended cultural heritage and traditions in making national apparel, carpets, and handicrafts with modern marketing knowledge, e-trade connectivity, and online sales platforms. It also included U.S. artisans experienced in business to consumer and business-to-business marketplaces.
Speaking at the webinar, Aizhan Bekkulova, Chairperson of the Union of Artisans of Kazakhstan, whose 800 members from across the country have used traditional techniques for the past 25 years, noted, “We are adjusting to a new reality and we have to find solutions to support the network of craftswomen.” For example, in Almaty, women artisans that faced COVID-induced slowdowns in their work started making face masks and other protective goods for local consumers. Now, they are exploring options to expand beyond their hometowns using digital platforms.
USAID will develop an e-catalog to broaden awareness of distinctive handmade products from Central Asia and Afghanistan. It will expand market access through new business models and e- platforms, and preserve local traditions, improve product quality, and reduce the environmental impact through innovative technologies. Collectively, these efforts will contribute to the long- term economic sustainability of women artisans in the region.
USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. For more information, visit the USAID Central Asia website: https://www.usaid.gov/central-asia-regional and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/USAIDCentralAsia.