Fair Trade for Women in Afghanistan


Afghan women learning and making jewelry together. Photo: One World Projects

 

In a society obsessed with and snowed under consumerism, most of us buy without thinking about the origins of the products we purchase. Questions such as where the materials come from (South Africa? Pakistan? India?), who harvested them (below-wage laborers or at fair wage?) and who made them (factory made or handmade?) don’t come to us conscientiously because of the large amount of stuff we buy on a regular basis. Most of our products these days change through so many hands before they come to us and the profits that go into each stage of transfer means the laborers at the bottom of the food chain are at the greatest disadvantage and work the most for the least amount of wage.

Some businesses, however, are built on ethical principles that counter this ravaging behavior that consumerism produces and uses business as a means toward social change and community impact. One World Projects is one such initiative that is founded on the principles of fair trade, socially and environmental consciousness in conducting its business. Working with local development agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in developing countries around the world, one of the things they are passionate about is providing fair wages to its workers which in turns build up the lives of these workers and their communities.

One of the many organizations that One World Projects work with is the Madina Handicrafts Community (MDC), an NGO in Afghanistan that empowers women who are either disabled or in vulnerable situations by providing them with an education, teach them literacy as well as teach them basic business skills which will go a long way for them as individuals as well as their communities. These Afghan women are also taught how to make jewelry, which is a way of providing them with relevant trade skills that can bring them sustainable income. Handmade jewelries by these women are currently sold through One World Projects to various businesses around the world.

Handmade jewelry by Afghan women.

Handmade jewelry by Afghan women. Photos: One World Projects

MDC works with more than 200 women, most of who are disabled and from various war-town provinces such as Kabul, Qarabagh and Wardak.

Some encouraging stories can be found amidst these women. Shaima Shafaq, a victim of Afghanistan war, hosts the MDC workshop located in Kabul right in her home. Having been shot by an Afghan soldier didn’t deter her spirit. Instead, she desires to inspire other women like herself who have suffered the pains of the war, and hope that through an open, giving attitude, she can inspire others to lead better lives and bring them out of their own seemingly hopeless situations.

Retail and wholesale purchases of these handmade jewelries by MDC can be made directly at One World Projects’ website as well as through eBay’s World of Goods site, a sub-site especially dedicated to ethically produced, eco-friendly merchandise.

When we make an ethical decision to support and purchase the handicrafts of Afghan women such as those from MDC, we can do our part to help them rebuild their lives and their country, which will eventually bring peace to their land.


Nature’s Jewelry from Pakistan and Afghanistan


Pakistan and Afghanistan are homes to many natural semi-precious stones which makes mining a big industry in these parts of the world.

Emerald, lapis lazuli, ruby and red garnet are some of the gemstones that can be found in parts of Afghanistan. Pakistan is rich in minerals like topaz, aquamarine, tourmaline, and various types of quartz.  Since both countries share a long border, this has led to an increase in the trade of natural minerals and semi-precious stones between the two.

Because of their easy access to a wealth of natural resources, artisan communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan tend to use these natural materials towards the nature-inspired jewelries they create. In a way, this also promotes a more sustainable way of living for the communities and ensure that nature is well taken care of – this way, artisan designers won’t produce goods that will be burned up or create any form of damage to earth’s natural resources.

Worldstock is one huge fair trade-friendly online shop that not only sells mass-produced overstock goods but also actively seeks out artisan communities from around the word, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, and provide them with job opportunities. Currently providing fair wages for more than 10,000 artisans around the world, Worldstock ensures that 60 – 70% of the sales price goes back to these suppliers. Worldstock is also known as Overstock and there is an interesting story (definitely worth a read) behind its new initiative to support artisan communities around the world.

Nature-inspired jewelry is also promoted by The Women’s Peace Collection, an organization that supports women in conflict regions, and equips women to become artisans, entrepreneurs and peace makers. Coming up with the Humanity Bracelet, it was specially handmade by Afghan women for use towards a campaign for global peace. Handmade out of hand-carved fluorite stones, this bracelet is beautifully adorned by its rose, violet and azure shades.

 

The nature-inspired Humanity Bracelet for The Women’s Peace Collection.

Speaking of the use of natural materials in its jewelries, Tribal Muse is a shop that is well stocked on ethnic jewelry and as with most ethnic jewelry designs, they tend to be made out of natural materials. This online store carries handmade ethnic jewelries from Afghanistan, some of which are made of the most charming natural supplies and gemstones such as lapis lazuli and carnelian.  Supporting tribal jewelry artisans living in Peshawar, the Afghan border, a lot of these jewelries are made out of metal which need to be skilfully hammered to create the required shape.

Natural ethnic handmade jewelry made by trial artisan communities in Afghanistan.
Natural ethnic handmade jewelry made by trial artisan communities in Afghanistan. Photo: Tribal Muse

With resources rich in natural minerals and semi-precious stones, it makes perfect sense to have artisan communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan work with the resources they have on hand, while preserving their rich culture and heritage, and work their legacy into the natural jewelries they create.