A number of women in Kabul City run bakeries to which poorer families deliver ready-made dough for baking, as they don’t have baking facilities at home, or buying baked bread from normal bakeries can cost expensive for them. In these bakeries, women receive five to seven afghanis for baking each loaf of bread.
Razia (pseudonym) is a 38-year-old woman who has set up an oven in a corner of her house yard. During the past six years, she cooks bread for more than 30 families every day.
In this way, she provides for the living expenses of her family of five. In addition, before imposing restrictions on girls’ education by the Taliban, Razia would also pay for her daughter’s education with her income from this home bakery.
Despite her fear of the Taliban, she has continued her work. On February 06, 2023, however, the Taliban men came to her home and broke her baking tools, warning her to stop baking bread.
The Taliban men claim that women in their bakeries do not observe the hijab requirement.
“Since the Taliban have come [back to power], no one feels peace. From the beggars to the shopkeepers and teachers, everyone is bothered by them,” Razia told Nimrokh. “Last week, one day around the sunset, three Talibs entered our house and broke my basin and other baking tools. I don’t know what is their problem with the women working at home. All my customers are women, no man comes here [for buying bread].”
Six years ago, when her husband fell from the third floor of a building and since then he can no longer walk, Razia set up an oven and started baking bread in order to support her family. The Taliban regaining power and their misogynistic orders, however, have created many problems for Razia and many other women who are their families’ breadwinners.
Now, although the Taliban have warned her to stop baking bread at her home, and although she is afraid of them, she has continued her work.
“I have to work,” she says. “My husband is disabled and we don’t have another breadwinner. The Taliban are just trying to deprive people of a bite of bread under any pretext.”
Meanwhile, she asks her customers not to bring their dough to her home at the same time, so that the Taliban and their cooperators do not know about the continuation of her work.
“Mostly, local people cooperate with the Taliban,” according to Razia. “Otherwise, how do the Taliban know that I have an oven and work at home? I am sure that the customers do not report it, but there is someone [in my neighborhood] who cooperates with the Taliban”.
“The day the Taliban came to the bakery, I was also there”, said Raihana, a middle-aged woman who has been Razia’s customer for about five years, to Nimrokh. “My loaves of bread had just been baked. When they arrived, they kicked everything. They even threw out the bread we had just taken out of the oven.”
But a few kilometers away from Razia’s home/workplace toward the west of the city, the situation for Masoma has become worse. She, who has been running a bakery in different places in the city for ten years, is currently not allowed to work. The Taliban even destroyed her bakery.
Masoma tells the story of the day when the Taliban members invaded her workplace.
“A month ago, four Talibs came and checked everywhere [within my workplace]. One of them, who was the oldest, told me: ‘you are not, hereafter, allowed to work. If I see women come and go here again, I will kick you out of this house’. I was wearing a small chador proper for baking bread. When I wanted to talk, he would scream, saying: ‘Shut up, shameless woman!’”
Before her bakery was shut down by the Taliban, Masoma used to bake more than 300 loaves of bread a day. Two other women also helped her in baking bread by receiving 150 Afghanis (around $1.5) a day. Those two women, who are now unemployed, were breadwinners of their families.
Not letting Masoma talk, the Taliban men broke her oven and all the baking tools with stones.
“When they saw me with a small chador, they’d gotten very angry. They destroyed the oven and broke my baking tools. Those impious men took from us a piece of bread we used to earn through working.
Shayesta is a mother of three children. She has been working with Masoma for more than two years. Four years ago, she lost her husband in a traffic accident.
“After the Taliban shut down the bakery, we have nothing to eat,” said Shayesta to Nimrokh. “It has been a week that we have no oil, and we spend our days and nights by eating tea and bread or boiled rice.”
According to Shayesta, most of the families living around their bakery do not have a good economic situation, and buying bread from normal bakeries costs a lot for them; Therefore, it is more economical for them to buy flour, knead it and bake it in the home bakeries run by the women.
“With the money to buy enough bread for a family of six for a month”, says Shayesta, “if we buy flour and knead it at home, it will be enough for the same family for almost two months.”
Now Masoma has decided to secretly continue her work in another place, as she tries for her family to stay alive.
“I can do nothing except bake bread,” she says. “My husband is old and I have no son to work. Women and girls are not allowed to work or leave home. I’m trying to find a hidden place. If I can bake bread for half of my customers, it will be good for me. At least I can earn as much as enough to keep us alive.