You’ve heard about countries where people survive on less than $1 a day, and Afghanistan is one of those many countries.
Being a war-torn country means that a lot of infrastructures that can potentially create jobs don’t do that anymore, leaving an income gap in most Afghan families. It is little wonder that when the Taliban regime wanted to pay unemployed young men ten times that amount to work for them, many went forward, inevitably leading to further social destructions. What alternative income means do families, where these young men come from, have in order to feed themselves or even obtain an education? The Turkmen Women’s Active Rights Association of Afghanistan (TWARA) is one of the non-governmental organizations (NGO) formed to counter the destructive vicious cycle perpetuated by the Taliban government.
Run by women for women, TWARA believes that if everybody works together, an alternative economy can be formed, one that is not like what the Taliban government set it out to be. One of its main focuses is to help women obtain economic independence and education which will in turn mean support for their families and immediate communities.
Formed in 2005, TWARA works primarily with women who live along the banks of the Amo River in the northern part of Afghanistan, an area which has little access to clean water, roads, electricity, health care or schools. Women from this district also have low literacy rate and face hardships because of their economic situation and are financially unsustainable.
In order to help women gain economic independence and education, TWARA established the Turkmen Women’s Handicraft Center, which focuses on providing training in handicraft to women. The center also acts as a marketing channel for these handmade products such as woven carpets, embroidery and jewelry to the international consumer market. Working in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, handicraft schools are also being introduced into various provinces around Afghanistan, so that this form of skills training can reach more women, equipping them towards long-term employment which will in turn lend a hand towards Afghanistan’s economic recovery process.
TWARA maintains an online showroom with its range of products such as embroidery and handmade jewelry. It also promotes its handmade products through popular sites such as The Hunger Site to promote its products (mainly jewelry range) through them.
Besides the use of online channels to market their handmade products, TWARA has also participated in several international handicraft fairs and gift markets in the US which promote fair trade goods supporting artisans and their communities. TWARA was represented at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in New Mexico, USA in July 2010 as well as another handmade gift fair held by One World Project in the same month.
Being part of international handmade and fair trade gift fairs helps NGOs such as TWARA gain more recognition in the global marketplace as well as allows the TWARA team to network with potential business partners and keep them in line with consumer trends, giving them new ideas for their artisan jewelry and embroideries.