Afghanistan

May 6
2015

Birthday wishes for Eternal Threads

I usually don’t celebrate birthdays, but maybe the milestones are different. I’m not sure why they should be, but certain milestones give us a way to celebrate life!

Even more rare than celebrating a birthday is having someone ask me what I want for my birthday, so when the Eternal Threads Board asked me what I wanted for my 65th birthday, I had to think about it. I didn’t have to think very long, however.

On May 18th we are celebrating my birthday and more importantly the 15th anniversary of Eternal Threads. When you talk about celebrating life, the last 15 years of the mission of Eternal Threads puts that in capital letters for me. LIFE AND HOPE to hundreds of women and their families. That’s something WE can all celebrate.

We have given over $1,000,000 of income to the women we serve just since 2005!!!! What more can we do?

Here’s what I wish for:

  • $3500 to help Rafiatu, in Ghana expand her business so she can employ more women and girls.   A production unit to make their own recycled beads and sandals and 6 sewing machines to train young women to sew.
  • Help Rosemary expand her market in Uganda with rent for a local shop so she can have the funds to educate her four younger siblings.
  • $8000 for 80 rescued girls in Nepal to have sewing machines enabling them to start businesses when they return to their home villages
  • $10,000 to support another anti-trafficking border unit in Nepal that can rescue 200 girls in a year…$50 a life!
  • Support for our Afghan partner and his family. They have received visas to go to India from Afghanistan where they felt increasingly at risk; as well as continuing our project in Afghanistan that his mother-in-law will oversee.
  • Expand our market in order to support our artisans with consistent orders and sustainable income. Contributions to Eternal Threads allow us to improve our products, website and marketing strategies.

The board has set the goal of 1000 donors to give $65 each for this celebration. (Write “Celebration” in the Program:Other window). Those funds could enable us to do all of this and much, much more. A great celebration indeed!!!

This celebration is for everyone who has supported Eternal Threads with donations, purchasing products, volunteering or hosting a sale. CELEBRATE LIFE AND HOPE in your own life and that of so many women you have served.

GRATEFULLY,

Linda

Mar 25
2014

“Making Someone’s Life!!”

In the world most of us live in on a daily basis, I doubt that we often think about the fact that we could do something quite insignificant to us that would actually “MAKE someone’s life”…changing their world forever and giving them hope for the future that we can’t even understand.  Esmat is living proof that it can and does happen.

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Let me back up and tell you the story.  On my last visit to Afghanistan, I was able to spend time with the family of our wonderful partner.  While we were having lunch, I learned that his oldest son who is 12 years old is only in the third grade because the government school will not let him test out to advance to the 6th grade where he should be for his age.  He is a very good student and loves school, but was kept back because they had moved locations so many times. It is a sad fact that in government schools in Afghanistan, as in many parts of the world, resources are almost non-existent and sometimes the teachers only show up a few days a week, leaving the eager children who want to learn to fend for themselves.

I inquired if there were any private schools in the city and was told that there were several.  I hated to ask how much the fees were, only to find out that they might be out of reach, but was told that they were $200 a year which includes tuition, transportation, uniforms, books and supplies.  Quite honestly, I sat stunned for a moment with the reality that this child’s life hinged upon $16 a month…that’s lunch in our world!!!  I wish I could wave a magic wand and spend the billions of dollars in government aid that has never reached the Afghan people to educate every child instead. What a difference it would have made!  But that’s another story.

Before leaving Afghanistan the next day, I spoke with our partner who had immediately enrolled his son in school with the money I gave him.  He said, “You have made his life.  If he becomes a doctor, I’ve told him he has to treat you for free.”  I doubt that I’ll be traveling back to Afghanistan for my medical care.  However, won’t it be grand to know that there is a doctor somewhere that will treat his patients with a loving and compassionate attitude- the same attitude with which his father treats the women in our tailoring courses.  There are so many Afghans just like our partner who care deeply and do the right thing for their neighbors daily.

Our partner is now asking us to help educate the children of the women who have graduated from our tailoring courses. They are desperate for the tailoring and literacy courses that we provide, but want more than anything to educate their children.  Because the schools will open this week after the worst of winter is over,  we have committed to sending 45 girls and boys to private school without having raised the funding yet.  We want them to be able to start with other students and not fall behind in their classes.  They start their adventure today!!!  Can you imagine the excitement of this first day of school with the prospect of a life ahead of them that is now possible.

Because women and girls have been denied so much in the Taliban years, my heart has always been with the Afghan school girls in their white headscarves.  But, Esmat, has paved the way…and he is just the boy to do it.  He has his father’s heart, who cares deeply for the women and girls in his society who live in the most dangerous place on earth for females.  He is leading the way and now 45 will follow and let’s hope many more than that.  There is a lot of pessimism about the future for Afghanistan in this ominous year, but children have always been and always will be the future.  They will be the ones to shape that future. Will you help us get them there?  We are taking donations for the children’s tuition on our website.  Please share this with others who care as you do.  Happy First Day of School!!

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Oct 10
2013

International Day of the Girl

Saturday, October 11th is the International Day of the Girl.  The purpose of the day is to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.  This year’s Day will focus on “Innovating for Girls’ Education”.

The official UN website states:  “The fulfilment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves. While there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education over the last two decades, many girls, particularly the most marginalized, continue to be deprived of this basic right. Girls in many countries are still unable to attend school and complete their education due to safety-related, financial, institutional and cultural barriers.”

The Eternal Threads vision began helping women have income to provide for more nutritious food, access to healthcare and education for their children.  In my experience working with women living in extreme poverty, one of their highest priorities is having income to educate their children…especially their daughters.  Most of them never had the opportunity to go to school and they know it is vital to their children’s future.

When our first project in south India was providing enough profit for us to return those benefits to the communities in which we were working, we knew the most important thing we could do would be to provide education for girls.  The photo below is of the first group of girls that were given school scholarships.Image

Since that time girl’s education and welfare has been a central part of the Eternal Threads mission whether it is directly through scholarships, building a school in Afghanistan, or through the livelihood incomes provided to their mothers which enables them to provide education and safety for their daughters.

Rosemary, our partner in Uganda, uses most of her income from the sale of her baskets to pay the school fees and buy school uniforms for her four younger siblings.  She is putting off her own education until she can give them the start in life they need.  If we can’t sell enough of her baskets to cover the fees, Eternal Threads provides a portion of those school fees.

Here are just some of the girls whose lives have been touched by Eternal Threads.  Join us in celebrating these girls.Image 9 - Version 2Image 45IMG_1437_1IMG_9666IMG_9648

Sep 15
2013

The Last Point

I sometimes receive emails from our Afghan partner that stun me in their reality and for a few minutes, I am able to block out the “nothingness” that is all around us and live in the moment of what truly matters.

For over four years our partner has very capably overseen the tailoring and now beautician training courses that we fund for women who desperately need a skill to provide income for their families in the safety of their homes.

International Literacy Day was September 8th.  That same week we began literacy courses and self-help empowerment courses for the women in our training courses.  They want to learn to read since most of them never had the opportunity to attend school.  Our partner recently finished a three-week training course himself to be able to also train these women in organizing Self-Help Groups.  This is a fantastic program that not only teaches them how to start their own businesses, but also gives training in forming self-help groups where they contribute their own money to a fund that will provide low interest loans to its members.  This program was developed by the International Labor Organization and is one of the most valuable tools for helping women who live in extreme poverty and oppression.

A few days ago, I received word from some dear friends that a young Afghan man they had worked with on development projects was murdered to prevent any further progress of this kind for the Afghan people.  I expressed concern to our partner for his and his family’s safety and questioned whether or not we should continue. I received this in reply…

Don’t worry Ms. Linda. We will not die this soon because we have targets and goals in our life. We are building the minds of children and women and giving them hope to continue living.  In this case, we have decided to continue to the last point…”

Everyone is fearful for 2014 and what will happen when international forces leave Afghanistan.  My fear is that the Afghan people will be forgotten once again.  The potential for the increased oppression and brutality toward women and girls is very real and beyond the scope of most of our imaginations.

A report in TOLOnews.com on 9/11/13 states that 95 percent of suicides in Afghanistan are committed by women. More than 2,500 Afghan women have taken their own lives in the past year alone. Countrywide investigations show that the vast majority of suicide cases in Afghanistan were amongst woman and young girls experiencing physical abuse. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Afghan women experience some of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world. According to UNAMA’s mid-year report, cases of violence against women were higher in 2013 than in 2012. In addition to violence, Public Health officials cited forced marriage, often between pre-adolescent girls and adult men, as well as widespread illiteracy as the main adversities facing female Afghans that contribute to the startling rates of suicide. 

This news is very discouraging, and it would be easy to say it’s not worth it, but if those who risk the most for their people are not willing to give up then my momentary feelings of discouragement don’t measure up.

Bless all of you who have supported these training courses with your donations to Eternal Threads for sewing machines, lunch for the women and trainers’ salaries.  I assure you it does not go unnoticed and it will never be forgotten.  It will continue to be a light in the shadows, and even a small amount of light illumes the darkness. DSC00175

After I visited the training courses on my last visit, I learned from our partner that the women could not believe that I would travel so far to see them and that we would care enough to give them these opportunities.  Caring enough isn’t really that difficult nor does it cost us that much, but it changes lives in ways that we really can’t comprehend.  I think it is easy for us to forget that there is a “last point” and I’m thankful for our partner’s reminder.  He is the father of three sons so his sacrifice or risk is certainly no less and a lot more than ours.  He was a translator for our military for two years and still honors the men and women that he saw sacrificing so much for his people and his country.  It is what inspired him.

To make a difference in the lives of these women in Afghanistan, please visit our Life Changing Gifts page.

Apr 17
2013

Journey West

On Sunday, April 14th, our Afghan partner and I traveled to the western city where our projects are located.  It was nice to have a companion for the journey.  Going to this city is like entering another world in Afghanistan.  It is much different than Kabul.  Thankfully, it has not been damaged as much over the decades of war so there are avenues lined with huge pine trees.  The entire city has mature trees (something you don’t see in Kabul) and parks with loads of trees and flowers.  It seems to be a more “normal” city rather than a war zone…people going about their daily lives…shopping, taking children to school, visiting neighbors.  All in all I prefer it to Kabul except for the fact that as a woman I am less free.  I never saw a single woman who didn’t have a burqa or chador. I’m able to wear a long coat and head scarf but we had to be cautious not to attract unwarranted attention.

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Our first project visit on Monday was to an area just outside the city to visit the tailoring course.  My partner brought his family with us to help with the “attention” factor.  This is the second course we have done for women in this area and will begin a third at the beginning of next month. Even though our partner had taken some wonderful photos and videos before it was such a pleasure to visit the young women for myself.  There are 10 in each class ranging in age from 18 to 30…most of them being around the age of 20. Because this is such a poor area none of them have ever had the opportunity to go to school so having the opportunity to learn this skill is a huge benefit to they and their families.  We passed out graduation certificates to everyone and our partner will present them with the supplies they need to start their business when they finish at the end of the month.  These supplies are purchased for only $120.  Anyone interested can give this amount for one of these young women on our website in Life Changing Gifts.

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I was also able to meet one of the young women (17 years old) from our first class who now has a business in her home and the 26 year old woman from our remote village whose story was in my last blog.  I had several questions for them which is such a new experience because never in their lives has someone asked them their opinion about anything.  They would not take their chadors off or even let me fully see their faces.

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We talked to the young woman about her business and what might help her be more successful.  We concluded that we could help the women get more customers in their neighborhood if they had pieces of fabric that their customers could choose from rather than having to travel into the city to buy it. Our partner is going to try and find a wholesaler that would give us a good price for bulk purchases of fabric.  The women are given their sewing machine and set-up supplies when they finish the course, but they would have to repay the loan for the fabric as they are able to make it into clothing for their customers.

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After visiting the tailoring course I had the pleasure of taking my partner and his family to lunch at an Afghan restaurant which is something that they as a family had never done before.  It was a treat for all of us to be able to spend time together.  Our partner’s three sons are ages 12, 7 and 4. (photo below)  His oldest son is a very intelligent boy and LOVES to go to school.  Unfortunately, because they had to move several times he is only in the 3rd class instead of the 6th as he should be.  The government school that he goes to will not let him take exams to advance to the grade that he should be in for his age.  I discovered that the solution to this was that he attend a private school.  I didn’t have the expense of educating children of my own so this was an easy decision for me.  I gave the funds to our partner when I left yesterday so that he can attend the private school.  I can tell that this young man will do well with every opportunity he is given.

After lunch we visited the jewelry project that we have been supporting since a good friend of mine began the project when she lived in this city for a year and a half.  She taught the women to make the beautiful jewelry that we now sell on our website and the young Afghan woman you see in the photo below has carried on the project to employ the women.  I collected some of the Pearls of Perseverance bracelets that were finished and we worked on some new designs as well.

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The remainder of our time was spend sourcing raw materials…a very fine cashmere comes from this part of Afghanistan.  I’m hoping we can employ some women make some beautiful infinity scarves and gloves that you will love.

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Apr 13
2013

Kabul Spring

It’s early spring in Kabul.  All of the fruit trees are in bloom and the new trees that have been planted by the mayor of Kabul are covered in the bright green leaves that only spring provides.  It’s hard to find evidence of hope springing up in a country and a city that has been crushed by war for decades, but nature seems to give it’s signs of renewal no matter what else is happening.

Friday was spent catching up with ET’s partner and visiting a Tajik refugee woman and her two daughters.  She has been making the wonderful organza jewelry bags that you’ve received if you’ve ever bought some jewelry from Eternal Threads.  Since I knew I would be seeing her and could carry the bags home in my luggage I gave her a fairly large order for this trip.  This photo with her two daughters was taken in the garden of the home where they live in front of the fruit tree in bloom.

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Today was a very successful day for us.  Our partner and I were able to find the offices of Operation Mercy. a Swedish Organization that specializes in Self Help Groups for women.  I met with the Afghanistan National Coordinator, Khalida Hafizi (photo below).  She was very helpful in giving us the information needed for us to do this program for the women in our projects.  I first saw the Self Help Groups in Afghanistan when I was here in 2007 and have since seen the concept in south India and Nepal.  It is a fantastic approach to helping women.  I am still impressed by the micro-lending concept started by Mohammed Yunus in Bangladesh, but I’m even more in favor of the self-help concept.  Women form groups in their own communities, elect officers and a board and begin saving their own money which they will eventually loan to each other.  From what I have witnessed this approach is even more empowering to people than receiving a loan because they learn how to do it themselves with their own resources.  The groups are also given literacy training and education in human rights issues.  In countries like Afghanistan where women are so isolated even from each other, these groups are of great benefit to them socially and economically.  Our partner is anxious to learn how to start these groups in our area.  Facilitators will be chosen from the women’s groups themselves and they will travel to Kabul for a one week training course hopefully by summer.

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I did have a couple of spare hours in the afternoon to go to Chicken Street to do some shopping.  You’ll be seeing some of the items on the Eternal Threads website eventually (photo below).

Everyone from the guest house had dinner at a wonderful Lebanese restaurant where I was able to visit more with the wife of a couple that are staying with us, but I  hadn’t had a chance to talk to.  They are English and she is a doctor.  They are also working with Operation Mercy in that little strip of Afghanistan that borders Tajikistan, China and India.  It’s one of the most remote places on earth.  They live at 10,000 feet in the winter!!!  She told me how cold it gets there and what the temperature is inside their house, but I think I blocked it out of my mind.  Incredible commitment.

On to western Afghanistan tomorrow to visit our projects.

Afghan Cheese Shop

Afghan Cheese Shop

Lunch - the most famous Afghan dish of lamb, rice, raisins and carrots.

Lunch – the most famous Afghan dish of lamb, rice, raisins and carrots.

Shopping on Chicken Street

Shopping on Chicken Street

Apr 11
2013

Return to Afghanistan

As I begin to write this I am in the hotel in Dubai where I spent the night on the way to Kabul.  My traveling companions and friends from the Lamia Foundation based in Nashville, TN joined me at the hotel late last night. The flight to Kabul leaves at noon today (Thursday, April 11th). I’m very anxious to see our Eternal Threads partner since I was unable to go this last year. We have a lot to catch up on and it’s a blessing to be able to meet face to face. Emails and cell phone conversations are great and we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without the advances in technology over the years, but nothing is as good as being together to share and encourage one another. It’s easy enough for me to get discouraged in the U.S. with the work we are doing and always hoping and praying that we will have the funding to fulfill our commitments we’ve made to help the women, but I know how much more it takes to stay upbeat and hopeful when you are working in the field against almost insurmountable odds.  They are the profiles in courage!

There are those who weigh in on what we do and analyze the projected results by the standards of …”is it enough?”…”are you really helping?”…”what good can it do to help a few when the problems are so immense?” Even though we constantly do evaluate what we are doing and try and answer all of these questions for ourselves, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that some analysis is best left to others.  You can’t really do this unless you believe that HOPE is what you are giving along with the skills and income for products made and it is that hope that is the intangible result of what we do. It is hope that inspires others to do great things in the world around them. I see it over and over again and it inspires me.

When our partner in Afghanistan wanted to start another tailoring course in the village where we work, I asked him to send me an email with his thoughts about the reasoning for it. Below is his response which for me was affirmation of all that we are trying to do and quite frankly what our military, NGO’s, government agencies and any one involved is hoping for….inspiring others that their lives can be better.  Here is what our partner wrote:

“When we first started our work the village leader and most of the men would not let our village women participate in our community programs because they always traditionally keep the women far from public skills and education. It was a shame for them if a woman would go out and learn something, even next door or in a neighbor’s house.

But with the affection of our community programs for the village women and the benefits and income they make from Eternal Threads programs it totally changed the mindset of the men in our village. So now, even men and village elders are asking us for more programs for women.

We have carpet-weaving, embroidery and education programs, which are very beneficial for the village people. So now they are asking for tailoring skills programs for the village women. If they have women tailors in their own village then it will help 10 women financially to buy food and other things they need for the winter season.”

After starting the course he sent me the story below in the words of one of the women trainees. (We have since sent money for her to buy food for her family so that she can remain in the course and not be forced to make other choices.)

Story of one of Eternal Threads’ tailoring program trainee

“I am a 26 years old widow. My husband died 3 years ago when he fell off a building working in Iran.  I have 5 children, 4 girls and 1 boy. I was asked many times to remarry different people in our village. Even the village boss is asking me to marry him, but he has 3 more wives and I don’t want to marry him or anybody else.

My husband’s brother is taking care of my family, and also I wash clothes and do other work in the village to pay for food to eat. The village boss and my husband’s brother are trying to force me to marry the village boss because my husband’s brother works for him. He says if I don’t marry the village boss he will lose his job and he will not take care of us anymore.

Fortunately, the Eternal Threads program came in like a “saving angel” who lifted my hopes and made me hopeful to live again.  So, I decided to participate in these classes to learn tailoring skills because I want to show them that a woman can also work and take care of my children. If I marry the village boss, he will sell my daughters and get all that money for himself. I don’t want to do that. I want to participate In Eternal Threads Tailoring Program and be a tailor, making money and taking care of my children and not be dependent on them. I am really trying to learn the tailoring to show even the other women in the village that women are not slaves or servants. Women also can do what a man can do.

I started resisting against them. I hope and wish that I am not ashamed In front of my village men and women, because I am the first woman standing against the village boss and their wrong believes. Please stay being my supporters.”

Someone asked me in an email just before I left the U.S. why I work with women in other countries and why I don’t care about women in the U.S.?  I care very much and I can’t necessarily explain why some of us are called to do what we do. I applaud the magnificent efforts of those that are working on projects for U.S. women…especially my friend Joyce Dalzell who founded Faith Works in Abilene, Texas. I think that no matter what our circumstances are we can all be inspired by those who overcome odds to change their lives for the better. I think American women (and men) of all circumstances can stand with women anywhere in the world and we will be better for it.

On Sunday I will travel to the area where our tailoring courses are. I can’t go to the village because it would put our partner in danger to be seen by “some” as working with a foreigner, but I will be able to visit the tailoring course in the city and the jewelry project that we support. I have graduation certificates to give to the women just finishing the course. They actually finished at the end of the month but are continuing a few more days for my visit. This will be the first time I have been able to visit them and I wish that all of you reading this could be with me. These women suffer in ways that is truly unimaginable to most of us. Just being in their presence is humbling to me. They are the ones who can change the world around them if they are given the skills to improve their lives and that of their families. Men in Afghanistan are realizing that it is a good thing for their wives and daughters to be educated and to be part of the society. HOPE rises to the top.

Village Tailoring

The Village Tailoring Course

On Friday we meet with a refugee woman and her daughter living in Kabul who make the wonderful organza bags that we put your purchases of jewelry in.  I’ll try and blog as often as I can so stay tuned and thank you for your support and encouragement.

P.S. When we landed today and walked out of the airport to go to the parking lots where our trusted driver meets us, it was a spectacular spring day and the air was “peaceful”.  (The only way I know how to describe it.)  A strange feeling considering where we are, but I tried to soak it in on the walk to the car…it’s a good way to start.

Blessings from Kabul,

Linda

Oct 5
2012

Threads of Hope for Afghan Women

Eternal Threads is hosting an event on Thursday, October 18th to raise money for women’s tailoring courses in Afghanistan.  This will be a unique come and go event filled with food and music from the region as well as handcrafted items made in Afghanistan that will be available for purchase.

There will be wool carpets made by the women in our carpet weaving project in a remote village, vintage galim carpets that are famous from the area of Herat where Eternal Threads projects are located, hand-embroidered pillows, hand-loomed silk scarves, hand-blown glass and handmade jewelry from a women’s project in Herat.  A special showcase of this event will be new and vintage hand embroidered Suzani wall coverings and bedcovers.  These are unique pieces (like those seen at Pottery Barn) brought back from Afghanistan by Eternal Threads founder.  All proceeds from the sale of these unique items will be used to fund women’s projects.

The tailoring courses are a lifeline for women in Afghanistan, allowing them to learn a trade that can help support themselves and their families. Each six-month course will provide 10 women with a beautiful, hand-crank sewing machine (which only costs $55 in US dollars!), her training and sewing supplies, and then a micro loan so she can start a home business.  It’s amazing how much just a little of our resources can change another woman’s life!  Most of us are aware of how bad the living conditions are in Afghanistan, especially for women.  These courses are truly a life-changing event for them.

The event will be downtown Abilene at 181 Pine St. from 7 to 9 p.m.  Eternal Threads founder, Linda Egle and Colonel Kristina O’Brien, Dyess Air Force Base will be speaking at 8 p.m.  Tickets are only $15 each.  Proceeds from just the sale of one ticket will provide sewing supplies for three months for one woman.

If you live in Abilene, call 325.672.6000 to purchase tickets or stop by the office at 101 Walnut St.  Tickets will be on sale at our next Open House on October 13th

Oct 2
2012

Afghan Tailoring Courses

ImageEternal Threads has begun tailoring courses in Afghanistan to give women the training they need to be able to have their own home businesses.  We have just completed one of these six month courses for 10 women and began a new course on September 1st.  These training courses are vital because they give women, especially widows, who cannot sell their goods in the open marketplace a way in which to create life-saving income for their families.

Our partner in Aghanistan oversees this project and a trained tailoring teacher is paid a monthly salary to work with the women on a daily basis.  The hand crank sewing machines that they use during the course will be gifted to them on the completion of the course along with a $120 small business loan.  This loan will to help them get started in their home business, providing money for start-up supplies and a sign for the outside of their home to advertise to their neighbors that they are in business.

Our Afghan partner describes the benefits of this project ~

“The tailoring course we have is really helping the women.  They are so happy coming to learn how to make clothes.  Even people from other parts of the city came to me and asked if we can have the same training in their area.  The women are so hopeful for the skill they are learning, they always talk to me about the future.  The women told me that when they are complete with the course that they will be a real tailor in the place where they live and they will be able to make money from this.  In this way they will feed their family members and help the man of the family financially.  In this case, they will not be under pressure from their husbands as they have been before because they are now also making money.”

If you are tempted to think that learning to sew is only an outdated hobby and can’t be that beneficial to women in the modern age, I’d like to recommend an incredible book ~ “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.”  This wonderful book tells the story of five sisters who survived the Taliban years on their own by having a tailoring business in their home. They not only employed themselves, but many young women in their neighborhood who had no way to survive otherwise.  This book is a testament to the perseverance and will that Afghan women have to survive and enrich the lives of their families.  They still desperately need these skills.  Watch this wonderful video of the women at the training center in Afghanistan ~ Afghan tailoring course