The next time you decide to go out and get some new jewelry, consider going to an artisan collective and buying jewelry handmade by Afghan women instead.
OneMaker is one of such artisan collective which aims to equip Afghan women with life skills that will help them create sustainable income for themselves and their families. While creating the supply, OneMaker also ensures there is demand for these products as another part of its business is to connect with relevant businesses and creating business opportunities for these products in consumer-driven markets.
Women in Afghanistan suffered under the rule of the Taliban regime. Not only were women not educated past the age of eight, they were also denied the rights to work. Most of them suffer in silence because they have little voice and status in their society. Did you know that the illiteracy rate in Afghanistan among women is approximately 88%? This figure is shocking which is why you can imagine the kind of liberation these women have when collectives such as OneMaker give them a chance at another kind of life.
OneMaker was founded in 2004 by Jana Harp Dean, an American lady who felt she had to do something after the September 11th 2001 incident changed her world. In the days that followed, she learnt how Afghanistan was used as a training space for terrorists. She also learnt about the suffering of the women and girls in that country and the oppression they were under. All these moved her to compassion and her heart went out to them. OneMaker was born out of her persistence towards change and better lives for these women. Today, one of OneMakerís businesses is to teach these women how to make jewelry so that they can sell them and earn a sustainable wage.
Bibi (not her real name) is one woman who benefitted from OneMakerís initiative. A mother of 4, she started out as an illiterate but soon learnt from a language teacher who goes to the center twice a week. Not only does her income provide her children with education but it also pays towards the house that she is living in. Before she had this job, she had to succumb to the sexual favors of the lender whom she is indebted to.
Being in a place of support gives Bibi renewed strength to face the challenges in her life. Bibi has two nieces who are suffering under their marriages. Married off at aged 8 and 12 years to men 10 years older than themselves, these girls are abused by their husbandsí parents. On a visit to the girls, one of them showed Bibi an open wound on her scalp, inflicted by her mother-in-law. OneMaker is a place of emotional support for these women facing similar situations in their families and allows them to stand together with a single voice to speak out against such injustices within their own communities.
OneMaker has an Etsy shop that gives all of us easy access to support them directly and through them, see change in the lives of oppressed Afghan women and their children. They have some really beautiful handmade jewelry that is definitely worth checking out.
To hear more stories about women in Afghanistan, see clip below.