BY REBECA SCHILLER
Zardozi: Market for Afghan Artisans
It all started 20 years ago when Zardozi started an income generating project with the mission to provide employment opportunities to Afghan women refugees who crossed into Pakistan at the start of the Soviet war.
Nearly all the women are illiterate, but with the income they earn through their embroidery they are able for the first time to provide for their children and themselves with basic life necessities such as housing, medical care and education. Most importantly, however, by giving the women the opportunity to work, Zardozi also gives them the dignity of becoming self-sufficient individuals.
Masooda Wahab is a prime example of how Zardozi helps women. Masooda is an Afghan refugee living in Pakistan, and now works as an embroiderer for Zardozi. She has seven children who walk one hour in each direction, but also work to help cover their fees. Masooda is the primary income earner for her family. Her husband is blind and not able to work. In an interview with SERRV, Zardozi’s partner, Masood said, “Without this job, life would be really difficult. Zardozi is for women like me and the working atmosphere make me forget my worries for a while. I dream of giving my children a good education so they can have better lives, buying a small home, and finding the best medical treatment for my husband.”
From their earnings in creating and selling their embroidery work, the women are able to pay for medical check-ups, including pre-natal care for the very first time in their lives. Numerous testimonies from the women support Masooda’s statement that earning an income has been life changing and allows them to have control over their lives.
The embroidery and handcrafts are sold at the Kabul Zardozi shop that caters to a large number of foreigners. Women from rural areas in Eastern Afghanistan as well as the refugees are employed in the shop. In addition to providing them with handcraft work, Zardozi provides basic business instruction and assists the women in starting their own businesses that focus on selling traditional handcrafts and clothing.
But the women still face hurdles due the region’s instability. The primary obstacle that both organization and women meet is security. According to Tafira Afridi, general manager of the Peshwar, Pakistan office, “It has become very hard for us to visit the camps and villages to collect and distribute pieces to the artisans, but we are giving up. We will continue our work.”
For more information about Zardozi, please visit www.afghanartisans.com.