MBAW Oversight and Certification
A labelling initiative is only as strong as the institutions that regulate and certify the use of that label. Without tight regulation and a diligent certification process, the initiative is vulnerable to exploitation by business interests with little to no interest in the welfare of Afghan women.
With that in mind, the first question to ask is, ‘What will happen if a company uses the MBAW label without being certified?’ In order to create a legal framework to address such a possibility, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries may wish to first officially register this symbol with its own Intellectual Property registration agency.
The next step is establishing a series of protocols in the event that a company improperly uses the MBAW label. This would likely involve an initial ‘Cease and Desist’ order; if this is ignored, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries must be prepared to file a criminal complaint with the Office of the Attorney General.
A standards-oriented certification regime will help ensure that only high-quality products that truly support Afghan women will receive the MBAW label and be included in the MBAW catalogue.
While a wide range of meetings have already taken place for the purpose of developing the MBAW initiative, there remain many details related to certification that have not been finalized.
One area where further debate is required is the question of product ownership vs. product production. If a company is owned by an Afghan woman, but all the labor is male, it is reasonable to expect that the final products will still qualify for the MBAW label. But what about the reverse situation; a male company owner with a predominantly female workforce? This is very often the case for businesses involved in two of Afghanistan’s major exports, saffron and hand-knotted carpets.
The MBAW partners may wish to provide MBAW certification to businesses with a majority female workforce, with an additional requirement that these businesses pay an established minimum wage and meet certain international workplace standards.
Besides the matter of product ownership vs. product production, there is the question of product quality; should MBAW-labelled products be held to a higher standard than ‘regular’ Afghan products? This question is especially relevant when considering that one of the goals of the MBAW initiative is to present a slate of Afghan women-made products to major international retailers like Walmart and Carrefour. If one MBAWlabelled product is of embarrassingly poor quality, it would reflect poorly on the entire product catalogue.