When Wollongong business-owner Shahira Mohseni was growing up, women in her home country of Afghanistan were not allowed to go to school, let alone start their own enterprises.
As a child in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Ms Mohseni's mother and father taught her to read and write.
After the Taliban was overthrown in the early 2000s, Ms Mohseni could pursue a formal education, and graduated from Kabul University with a degree in literature.
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These early experiences of the importance of education and women's empowerment have stuck with Ms Mohseni, and even as the Taliban has taken back control of Afghanistan, she is working to inspire in other Afghan women the hope that she had.
Now living in Wollongong, Ms Mohseni recently fulfilled her lifelong goal of starting her own business. Roz Boutique is an online business that sells paper earrings, handmade by Ms Mohseni herself.
Ms Mohseni runs the business while working full time as a banking consultant and said that she hoped to be a role model for other Afghan women.
"I want to inspire those women and girls that even though we have so many problems and obstacles in Afghanistan, we can still do something we can like, we can be a role model for other girls, and we can change our life."
Ms Mohseni began the business in 2021. Originally, she had planned to import lapis lazuli gemstones from Afghanistan and set those in jewellery, however as the situation deteriorated in Afghanistan 2021, Ms Mohseni changed to making paper earrings.
With the support of business mentors through the Start Gap program run by the Zig Zag Hub, Ms Mohseni was able to set up an Instagram page, selling the earrings.
Ms Mohseni learnt how to make the earrings through watching YouTube videos, and can create an earring in one to two hours, depending on the design's complexity.
While working full time, Roz Boutique is a side hustle for Ms Mohseni and a skill that she enjoys improving in her spare time.
"This is something that makes me feel calm," Ms Mohseni said. "I do it because I love it."
Running the business on her own, without having large networks of friends or family nearby, has led to Ms Mohseni taking a steady approach, but she said she hopes that one day, she can fulfil her original goal, to work with women in Afghanistan and share their craft and wares with people around the globe.
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