Pakistan’s fashion brand helps Afghan women weave their dreams into reality

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Updated 28 November 2018

Pakistan’s fashion brand helps Afghan women weave their dreams into reality

  • Collaborates with UNHCR for initiative to empower refugees staying in the country
  • Program will teach students to market their handmade products in the international market

KARACHI: Shareefa was 35 when she lost her husband to an illness almost a decade ago. 

Uneducated, alone and left with the responsibility of taking care of her two sons, age 8 and 5, and a two-year-old daughter, the Afghan refugee hailing from the Kandahar province and currently residing in Pakistan, said she had no choice but to work as a domestic help for a meager amount, using her earnings to fund her children’s education. 

When her eldest son, Akmal Hayatullah completed his primary school, the board of secondary education in Karachi refused to issue him a certificate for further studies.

“I visited the board several times for six months before I finally decided to discontinue my son’s education and sent him to work [as a mechanic] at a local workshop,” she said.

When things took a turn for worse and with so many mouths to feed, Shareefa was once again forced to stand on life’s crossroads, ultimately stopping the education of her second son, Zabihullah, and daughter, Arifa, too. 

“Zabihullah is now working as a waiter in a restaurant,” she said.

Together, the family of four earn enough to get by, as Afghan nationals have very few or no opportunities for employment in the mainstream sectors.

Therefore, when Shareefa was selected by the UNHCR for the “train the trainers” program, her happiness knew no bounds.

After completing the three-month training program, where designer Huma Adnan took her under her wings in May, Shareefa, along with two other women, is now training 18 other Afghan refugees at the AHAN (Aik Hunar Aik Nagar) center, at Chhota Plaza, in Sohrab Goth.

Shareefa is hopeful that through the initiative she too will soon have her own small business. 

Stitching the same set of dreams, one piece at a time, is Najeeba, one of Shareefa’s students, who says she is confident that one day she will start contributing financially to her family, too. 

“My father works on daily wages. Like other Afghan nationals, my father is being offered little wages due to which he is finding it difficult to run the household. Give us the skill and we will show you how we can make many things,” Najeeba told Arab News.

She added that even though she wanted to continue her studies, lack of educational facilities and tough financial conditions were forcing her to stay at home. “If we have skills, we will also spend our lives according to our wishes,” she said. “Finally, we are having it,” she said.

Currently, three trainers -- Shareefa, Sitara and Sakina -- are teaching a group of six women each at the center. However, designer Adnan says she will select more trainers to reach and impact more women refugees through the program.

She added that the skillsets which these women will eventually acquire will help make them self-reliant in the long run. For that, one of the most important aspects of the program is to market the world-class handicrafts which these women are making. “To sell these in the international market, the best marketing practices should be adopted,” she told Arab while showing sample photographs from a fashion shoot for the jewelery made by the women.

The focus should be on “more quality and not on the quantity of crafts” made, she said, adding that the Afghan women “have shown that they can create the best” handicrafts.

“They are ready to learn, ready to improve and ready to improve their standard of living by working hard to earn a living. All they need is direction and mentorship,” she said.

Pakistan is host to 1.3 million refugees. “We will have to accept that they may hardly return to their homes. So, the best way to make them self-reliant and productive for the society where they live in is to turn them into skillful artisans,” she said, adding that it is the “collective responsibility” of all, including refugees’ agencies and non-government organizations, to realize this dream.

Adnan says every design created by the refugee women holds a special meaning for her. “I know the stories and hard work that is going into this project. Each piece represents beauty and love, loss, fears, and tears and you can see it in the perfection of their finished product,” she said.

Shareefa, on her part, said that the present seems like a dream. “The Afghan women remain at home. Even if educated they hardly come out of work. This program will lead them towards becoming self-reliant and ultimately changing their destiny.”


Rapper Nipsey Hussle wins two posthumous Grammys

Updated 27 January 2020

Rapper Nipsey Hussle wins two posthumous Grammys

  • ‘We all loved him, we all miss him. It is terrible that we had to lose him so early’
  • Long part of the underground rap circuit, Hussle struggled to find fame but began selling his own mixtapes

LOS ANGELES: The late rapper Nipsey Hussle on Sunday won two posthumous Grammys, on a night when his life was celebrated in a moving musical tribute led by singer John Legend.
Less than a year after his shock murder in broad daylight in Los Angeles, Hussle won awards for Best Rap Performance for “Racks in the Middle” along with Best Rap/Sung Performance for “Higher.”
“I want to thank all of you for supporting this and for lifting Nipsey’s name up,” said Legend, who along with DJ Khaled performed “Higher” and accepted the award.
“We all loved him, we all miss him. It is terrible that we had to lose him so early,” Legend continued.
“We thank his family for being here tonight with us. Thank you for allowing us to use his legacy and lift it up in song tonight.”
Hussle — an Eritrean-American who was born Ermias Asghedom — was shot dead last March, triggering an outpouring of grief in LA and among his superstar peers, who hailed both his musical talents and tireless community organizing.
Raised in LA’s Crenshaw district, Hussle had transformed the block he would hustle on into a retail, job-creating hub for his Marathon Clothing company.
He took his stage name from a play on the name of the comedian Nipsey Russell.
“Higher” opens with Hussle dressed all in blue — the color of the gang he belonged to, the Crips — rapping about his family’s history in the gritty Los Angeles neighborhood he called home as well as his father’s journey to the United States from Eritrea.
Long part of the underground rap circuit, Hussle struggled to find fame but began selling his own mixtapes.
Hip-hop royalty Jay-Z once bought 100 of them — for $100 each.
He was nominated last year for Best Rap Album for “Victory Lap,” his first formal album that finally dropped in February 2018 after six years of teasing, but lost out to Cardi B.
The tribute to Hussle took on heightened meaning as Los Angeles also mourned the loss of another favorite son, NBA icon Kobe Bryant, who died tragically Sunday in a helicopter crash.
The tribute performance for Hussle saw the images of both men projected on stage at the Staples Center, where Bryant led the Lakers team to several championships.
Family members accepted Hussle’s award for “Racks in the Middle,” which featured rappers Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy.
The late star’s grandmother delivered an emotional elegy, thanking the audience for “sharing all the love that I have felt for him all of his life.”