The Afghans have an old saying, which goes something like “a woman is the light of a family”.
Three decades of war has left many Afghan families stripped of its males as breadwinners for their families. For decades, Afghan women not educated past the age of eight and were not allowed to work and all this was when Afghanistan was still under the Taliban rule. With the burden now of having to pick up the pieces for their families and be the sole breadwinner instead, this new responsibility brought fear but also renewed hope in many Afghan women.
Where most Afghans who manage to leave their homeland rather stay abroad, away from the destructiveness of the war, Rangina Hamidi is one entrepreneur and women rights’ activist who decided to return to Afghanistan in 2003 to be a part of her country’s rebuilding process. One of the things she decided to do in order to help bring financial stability to families is by providing women jobs through Kandahar Treasure, a handicraft business.
Kandahar Treasure is based in Kandahar, Afghanistan, a place where different political regimes have sought to use it as a base for power for strategic reasons. For Hamidi, Kandahar is also where she calls home.
Despite the new government in place, traditional patriarchal attitude prevents women from going out to work and providing for their families. On top of that, although Afghanistan receives foreign help at this point, Hamidi fears that this will only lead to other complications. Hamidi feels strongly that providing jobs for women is the solution towards rebuilding her country.
“Afghans themselves have to take their own share of responsibilities,” Hamidi said. “Afghanistan cannot have a better future if the way things are done are not changed.”
Kandahar Treasure employs about 350 women artisans within Kandahar, where all of them work from home. Because all products are handmade, there is no need for electricity and machineries. The women are paid immediately upon the delivery of handmade products, and after ensuring that the products are of good quality. Some of these products include embroideries, jewelry, belts, scarves and all of them are embellished in Khamak style, a traditional Afghan style of embroidery.
Not only does Kandahar Treasure help these women rebuild their families but using their hands at work also gives them a purpose in doing something to preserve and rebuild their culture. When Hamidi first started the business in 2003, she had trouble getting the women to provide quality products, which makes it a challenge to sell the handmade products in a competitive accessory industry. After encouraging the women that their artwork will go towards the preservation of the richness of their culture, the quality of the products improved tremendously.
Enjoy the richness and a piece of Afghan culture when you buy a Kandahar Treasure handmade product, as the women do their part to preserve and enrich it with their hands and labor.