I recently had the pleasure to speak with Rangina, a current Kiva borrower and the founder of Kandahar Treasure, an artisan organization established in 2003 and based in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Rangina is a member of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise (www.alllianceforartisanenterprise.org), a Kiva Field Partner which works with artisan groups globally to help them access needed financing and grow their businesses.
Kandahar Treasure provides work to over 400 women in Kandahar province who offer their incredible fine needle-work known as Khamak. It is a pioneering initiative for the women involved since it’s led and owned by women in the province – an unwelcome concept in Afghanistan. The business is also self-sustaining which is a rare achievement in the country. The women take pride in knowing that they have proven a model of success in the midst of war and destruction in their country.
Rangina’s loan has enabled Kandahar Treasure to rent a car to transport employees to and from work and to purchase new and enhanced sewing machines. The car minimizes the stress the women experience from harassment on the street when they walk to work or when they have to take public transportation. Some women don’t have any public transport options, so it saves considerable time walking to work (for some, as much as 1.5 hours each way).
The new sewing machines allow the artisans to do better, faster work. As Rangina puts it, “the new sewing machines work better than the old ones which were like something out of the 19th century.” Having new, modern machines gives these women a sense of pride and empowerment. Their handiwork is enhanced through better technology without losing the unique and delicate features that makes Khamak so special.
I asked Rangina what she’d like people to know about the work of Afghanistan’s artisans and what her hopes are for the future of Kandahar Treasure. She says, “Kandahar Treasure is an example of how creating artwork can financially benefit artisans and their communities. Afghanistan, my country, remains a country that faces many challenges on all fronts of life. Kandahar Treasure is a relatively small initiative trying to change the way Afghans think, work and benefit from their place in a changing world. We have three hopes and we think they are simple and attainable:
1. Peace and stability (political and physical) in our country so that we all can live in peace and plan and strategize for a future that seems out of reach for many of us on the ground because of world politics.
2. Find enough market opportunities for our products so that we remain self-sustaining…we want to be pioneers in advocating to the world marketplace that buying hand-made is not only good for them but that it helps the world!
3. We want to be able to expand our operations throughout Afghanistan, creating regional chapters of our work, and one day creating Afghan Treasures that will encompass all of the treasures that women in Afghanistan create by hand.
We look forward to the world hearing our voice and helping us achieve our hopes!”