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The Afghan bank trying to encourage women bankers

Kabul-based Afghanistan International Bank has done much to further the cause of women, with its zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment claims, safe transport services and crèche facilities in a country that constantly remains close to chaos.

Could there be a harder place than Afghanistan to run a progressive lender that actively promotes the employment and promotion of strong women?

Yet Afghanistan International Bank (AIB) manages to do exactly that by treating its male and female employees as equals – and by recognising there are times it must intervene.

Never is this truer than when a sexual harassment claim is lodged. When it happens, the bank’s Female Employees Advancement & Development committee kicks into gear. Mariam Qaderi, AIB’s head of trade finance, chairs FEAD and oversees every hearing. If an accusation is upheld, action is taken against the accused.

It’s this zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment claims that has made AIB stand out – not just among women keen to work at the lender, but with their families too.

“We are still by far, from the point of view of fathers of daughters and husbands of wives, a preferred employer as they know there will be no sexual harassment in our premises,” says Anthony Barned, the bank’s British chief executive.

He credits his predecessor Khalil Sediq with kickstarting reforms. A former governor of Afghanistan’s central bank, Sediq “established a culture of no sexual harassment 12 years ago. That gave us the reputation with families for being a very safe place for women to work”.

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