There are 2.9 million Afghan refugees around the globe, over 650,000 of which were newly displaced since January of this year. As the situation in Afghanistan continues to evolve, exacerbated by an ongoing pandemic and the climate crisis, these numbers continue to grow. In India, Pakistan, and Malaysia, MADE51 works with incredibly talented Afghan refugee women. We also have artisan partners in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
At Archisha, our local social enterprise partner in India, artisans create modern, finely crocheted accessories, that showcase heritage skills. These artisans at Archisha are behind the incredibly elegant eternal snowflake & silver moon holiday ornament. We spoke with Parween, one of Archisha's incredible artisans, about her thoughts on this product she has been making and her difficult decisions to leave her home.
When did you come here and with who?
I came to India on 8 October 2017 with my family. My family consists of my husband, Ismail, 53, and my daughters, Sabira 22, Sofia 20, Marzia 18, and Brishna who is 6 years old.
How did you feel when you had to leave home?
It was tough! We obviously didn’t feel good. We had to leave everything that we had and worked hard to achieve. It is tough to leave your friends, family, and your job, but we had no other choice. To seek safety, we had to accept it and leave everything behind.
What is your craft? How did you learn it?
The art of making crafts is part of Afghanistan’s rich culture, but I had an official job in Afghanistan. After I was forced to flee to India, I had to stand on my own feet to support my daughters. I joined the Archisha centre and learned the skill of making crafts. Today, I can sew, knit crochet, and embroidery to support my family.
What kinds of items do you usually make?
We make different items here, such as handmade earrings, bags, decoration items, coasters, table cloth and more. Presently, we also make protective face masks with different designs on them.
Why is this work important to you?
Life as a refugee is stressful. If you’re able to do something, no matter how small, it makes you feel good. My work calms me mentally. A few hours with my friends relieve me of my stress. Additionally, it provides me economic independence in supporting my daughters’ education and daily expenditure.
How does working together in a group with other women make you feel?
When I’m alone at home, I have hundreds of stresses. I think about my children’s future, their education, how I can build a bright future for them, or now, the current situation of Afghanistan. But when we get some orders and we come to the centre, it keeps us away from all the tensions. Together with other artisans, we laugh with each other, we help each other learn new designs, and we come up with some creative ideas for products.
What is the meaning of the holiday ornament design and what do you like about it?
The current design we are working on is for the holiday collection. Some of the broader designs are stars and some are flowers. Through our own creativity, we made those designs and the clients liked them. That’s why we have been getting more orders for it.
How do you plan to use the income that you earned from this order?
Our earnings depend on the number of orders we get. Some months, we get a larger quantity of orders. But whatever amount I get, I plan to use that to support my daughters’ education and daily household expenditure.
Has being an artisan, and earning a living, helped you support your family and/or send your children to school? How does that make you feel?
Being self-reliant makes me feel independent and proud of myself. Being an asylum seeker, I am grateful for this opportunity to earn on my own. From the small amount, I am able to send my six-year-old daughter to kindergarten. I’m very happy about it.
What example do you want to set for your children? What hopes do you have for them?
Whatever I have witnessed, I don’t want my daughters to go through. This is the reason why I’m working tirelessly to make a brighter future for them. I always encourage them to stand up for themselves and work towards their dreams. I continually, encourage them to learn new things and read books so they are able to achieve their dream.
"The products that you order help us to support our children get an education. I want my children to study in whatever field they are interested in. My hope is that I can support them through my skill-set and job as an artisan."
Is there a message you would like to send to the people around the world who buy your products?
Yes, I want to tell them that if they like our products, please order. It is very helpful to us, especially to refugee women. The products that you order help us to support our children get an education. I want my children to study in whatever field they are interested in. My hope is that I can support them through my skill-set and job as an artisan.
What is your dream?
My dream is to support my daughters, build a brighter future for them and ensure that they are able to pursue their education in whatever field they want. We hope that through MADE51 and UNHCR’s support, our daughters will be able to achieve this dream.