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Kandahar Treasure
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Kandahar Treasure

The Taliban's home city of Kandahar is a volatile and dangerous place. In the midst of the ongoing conflict there, Rangina Hamidi, an Afghan-American woman, has started a business that provides local women with jobs creating embroidery. Earning their own money empowers these women, raising them out of poverty, improving their self-esteem, and enabling them to make independent financial decisions.

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Produced by Paula Lerner.

Originally featured in the ViewChange Online Film Contest.

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Segment 1

RANGINA HAMIDI [Founder, Kandahar Treasure, Kandahar, Afghanistan]
Trying to do business in a war zone brings challenges beyond anybody's imagination. Things like basic infrastructure, electricity, transportation ... we have a country and a government that is still not a working government. So, trying to do business in this region is probably one of the hardest things to imagine. But, yet, nothing's impossible, so everything can go forward.
PAULA LERNER
Rangina Hamidi was born in Kandahar, but when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan her family fled the country, eventually landing in northern Virginia where she grew up and was educated. After the events of 9/11/2001, she returned to Afghanistan with a mission to find ways to economically empower the women of her native country. She is the founder of Kandahar Treasure, an enterprise employing over 450 women who embroider garments and housewares for the domestic and international market.
RANGINA HAMIDI
I came here as a non-profit worker, and the bureaucracies, the politics, the lack of a real vision forward, really disappointed me. And so I thought that the alternative to this mess was a business, because business offered sustainability, and business gives an opportunity for people to rebuild their own lives with their own hands. I saw my country, in the past 30 years of war, we are constantly waiting to be spoon-fed by the world. So my answer to this dissatisfaction was: start a business that I can own, but with a sustainable model. I know that in the future we can stand on our own two feet, and not depend on the world to provide for us. I prefer business over charity because doing business gives me integrity.
RANGINA HAMIDI
Kandahar Treasure respects that women in Kandahar live in a very strict, traditional, and conservative society. Almost all of the women that we work with in our business don't have the permission to leave their home to work. We decided that we would go to their homes rather than ask them to come to a production site. The women embroider. It's a very old embroidery skill that women in Kandahar are specifically known [for] throughout the country. Before Kandahar Treasure, this embroidery never really was introduced to the world as a possible product for market. So, by recognizing this incredible fine skill that the women had, Kandahar Treasure used the opportunity to provide a working opportunity for the women at home.
RANGINA HAMIDI
Kandahar Treasure empowers women. When a woman earns, it gives her power beyond our understanding and imagination. Women are always a liability here: their food, their clothing, their health, every aspect of their life has to be taken care of by a man figure in the household. And so now, with women having the ability to earn money, at home even, they now have an opportunity to become an asset to the family. Indirectly, we're also changing the social dynamics of the society, and that is an important step to changing women's social reality in the country that we're working [in].
RANGINA HAMIDI
One cultural benefit to women in Kandahar is that it is beneath the men to ask for monetary assistance from a woman. Men will not ask a woman for money because it will bring down his manhood. Women, by the mere fact that they now have money in their hands, are making decisions. They're now earning side by side with their men, and that in itself improves self-esteem because she now knows that she's worth something. And the mothers are now able to negotiate with the father who wants to marry the girls off at an early age; the mother basically is buying time for her daughters to not get married early because she's not bringing income, and the father agrees. So this is one very important example of how the social as well as the economical change is happening.
RANGINA HAMIDI
We have over 450 women who are working with Kandahar Treasure. An average Afghan consists of about seven to eight people. If you do the math, I would say that at least 3,000 to 4,000 people are benefitting from Kandahar Treasure. I would never consider these women as victims because they're changing not only their lives but their society's and the future of their children. These women are not victims.
RANGINA HAMIDI
As a woman, as an Afghan woman, I have come to believe that the future of Afghanistan depends on its women. I cannot count on the men -- who have murdered, who have killed, who have destroyed -- to rebuild my country. Women, on the other hand, because we have not been involved in the destruction, I think we're a natural alternative to giving Afghanistan a new image, a new face, and a new future. I would like the world to know that women, as stakeholders of their country and their society and their families, are better advocates for peace and stability in their nation. By being involved in businesses that have integrity, I know and I believe that women can change the future of Afghanistan.
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Photos, audio, narration, and production by Paula Lerner www.lernerphoto.com