Arzu — which means “hope” in Dari — helps provide Afghan widows with sustainable income by sourcing and selling their handmade carpets. Arzu’s goal is to create opportunities for economic self-reliance, education, and health care for Afghan women and their families through a sustainable carpet project with long-term access to US markets. Arzu believes that the empowerment of women is critical to the world’s future prosperity and possibilities for peace — and has engaged in several different strategies to accomplish that goal.
Arzu’s programs target women in rural Afghanistan. For rural, poor, illiterate Afghan women, the centuries-old tradition of weaving is often the only culturally acceptable means of generating income. In Arzu’s target communities, carpets are virtually the sole source of income for women, and low wages make it virtually impossible for carpet weavers to break the cycle of poverty. Arzu pays women weavers 50% more than market rate for their labor. In addition, upon completion of their carpets, ARZU pays waevers a cash bonus in exchange for the commitment to attend literacy classes and send their children to school.
Many women have weaving skills but no looms or quality wool. Arzu delivers both, cultivating a market for the beautiful rugs in the US and beyond, in addition to paying good wages that can be earned from home while providing desperately needed health care and education opportunities for weavers and their families.
|Construction of the
Dragon Valley Women’s Community Center
Few places in the world are less hospitable to women than Dragon Valley. With a climate dominated by a frigid winter and no central heat, plumbing, or electricity in homes, women rarely if ever manage a reprieve from grueling household chores and childrearing. Work for income is rarely an option.
Arzu has increased work opportunities and addressed quality-of-life issues for local women through construction of the Dragon Valley Community Center. Beyond the 11th was instrumental in funding this initiative. The center provides many desperately needed services as well as life-changing improvements including job training, laundry facilities, shower room with latrine, tea room, classroom, and community garden.
Provided vital support to Afghanistan’s most vulnerable population, widows, through economic empowerment (bonus payments), asset acquisition (such as looms), and access to education for widows and their families, including college scholarships for girls from widow families.
Contributed valuable funding to construct the first Women’s Community Center in Dragon Valley, Bamyan. In this center, women, once confined to their homes, have access to hot water to wash dishes, clothes and themselves; share cups of tea in the tea room; attend literacy classes and; build soul-nourishing friendships with other women.
Created extra-curricular and alternative livelihood opportunities for widows and other community women by funding a baking and sewing apprentice and program and a library at the Women’s Community Center.
Brought smiles and enjoyment to village children through the construction of a playground at the Dragon Valley Women’s Community Garden.
Replicated the success of the first Women’s Community Center to a second village with valuable funding used to cover the operating costs for the Women’s Community Center, Shaspul.
Provided dignity for refugee families, many of whom are widow-lead, by funding the construction of public latrines at the ARZU Superadobe Housing Development for Homeless Hazara Refugees.