In 1980, as fighting intensified between the Soviet invaders and the Afghan resistance fighters, Fatima Mohammad Mussah and her family fled Northern Afghanistan to the safety of Iran. They built a new life and lived there for more than fifteen years, but for Fatima and her husband, home would always be in Herat, Afghanistan.
Their dream of returning home finally became a reality as they returned to Herat. While the family was still living in a tent, the enterprising couple began to look for work. Fatima’s husband‘s small business transporting heavy goods around the village on a pushcart earned $30/month. Fatima worked as a tailor, sewing clothes and selling them to wholesalers. After a difficult first year, they saved enough money to build a house. Fatima taught her children to sew carpets to supplement the family income, but also made them attend school. Yet even though they worked hard, the family had no savings, nor protection against future crisis.
In June 2000, the Taliban falsely accused Fatima’s husband of supporting a rebel commander and sent him to prison while Fatima, along with dozens of other women, were left to fend for themselves. During this time, Fatima and her children continued to eke out a living sewing and weaving carpets until her husband was released. The Taliban departed two months later and families began to rebuild their lives.
When FINCA opened its program in Herat in 2003, Fatima was among the first women to form a FINCA village banking group they named “Fuladi” (or “steely,” after the strength the members see in their group). Each received a loan of 6,000 Afghanis ($125) to invest in their microenterprises. Today, Fatima’s tailoring business is thriving, bringing a measure of economic stability to a family that has suffered years of instability, displacement, and deprivation.