Weaving Toward a Better Future

2 minute read
Barbara Kiviat

In the remote villages of northern Afghanistan, Connie Duckworth is introducing women to the American marketplace. A year and a half ago, the former Goldman Sachs managing director started a nonprofit to buy traditional carpets from hand-weavers and sell them to U.S. consumers. The idea: to empower women in a war-ravaged country by paying 150% of the going rate while insisting that they learn to read, if they can’t already, and put their children–even the girls–in school. The group, called Arzu (www.arzurugs org) which is Dari for hope, received a $480,650 seed grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Arzu so far works with about 50 families; each may include three to five female weavers. The carpets can take up to 12 months to weave, and Arzu expects to bring its first ones to market in the late spring. The rugs typically cost $750 to $6,000. That’s not cheap, but Arzu has already seen early signs of success: at a launch party in August, the nonprofit sold $60,000 worth of rugs ($25,000 of which has already been pledged to help build a new school)–even though the carpets had been intended only as samples and not for sale. –By Barbara Kiviat

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