Make Schools, Not War

imagesThis morning’s paper had a compelling editorial by Nicholas Kristof, co-author of the current occupant of my bedside table, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Kristof (an Oregon native although now he lives in New York) suggests building schools in Afghanistan would more likely lead to peace and a strong Afghan society than sending in 40,000 additional US troops. How’s that Mr. Kristof?

Actually I believe the guy because I’ve got his book fresh on my brain. In both his column and in Half the Sky Mr. Kristof lays out very plainly and factually how investment in education of girls directly leads to economic development, improved health for women and children, and peace. Nations that invest in girls’ education have less terrorist activity (Kristof cites Bangladesh as an example). The converse is nations that are most repressive of women (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Congo) have much more terrorist activity as well as much higher infant/ maternal mortality rates and great struggles with economic underdevelopment.

Compared to guns and troops, schools are super cheap to build and run. There are fantastic NGOs out there that know how to build them and run them well (CARE, Greg Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute, to name a few).  What are the chances the US government, including my beloved President Obama, would turn to cheap-o schools over the economic powerhouse of war though? If you ask me, slim to none. Sure we’ll keep throwing token USAID funding at building schools while at the same time squandering our precious tax dollars on the machine of war. It so angers me that we can’t agree as a nation on funding a public healthcare option but we can go out and put our troops in harms way and kill countless innocent Afghan civilians, all in the name of peace and nation-building. It just doesn’t work. Never has, never will.

One More Bag From Afghanistan

This Kuchi bag didn’t make it up on my blog the other day but here it is. The Kuchis are a semi-nomadic minority group in Afghanistan and these clutch bags use their traditional style of exuberant detailed embroidery.  Sewn into the border are tiny little mirrors which dance and sparkle when they catch light. Afghanistan might well be the hardest country in the world to be a woman.  The highly-skilled women who make these bags live tough lives to be sure.  By getting a fair wage for their work hopefully their burdens are made just a tiny bit lighter.

Look What Afghan Women Can Do!

Yesterday DHL pulled up just as I arrived home. I love it when DHL pulls up! It means a big box of goodies has arrived from somewhere exotic. This time that exotic land was Afghanistan and the products were purses, totes and Christmas ornaments.

How do I get bags shipped to me from Afghanistan, you ask? Here’s the scoop. My in-laws went to Afghanistan earlier this year for a month to volunteer at a hospital. My mother-in-law, Florence, returned with a contact for me, an organization called Zardozi. I looked them up and was enamored with their products, not to mention their story. Zardozi has been around since the 80’s, when they started a sewing center to train Afghan women how to use their skills to make marketable products. Now they work mainly with Afghan refugee women who live in Pakistan or in eastern Afghanistan. Many are starting to return home and they’re able to bring their new skills with them, continuing to work and therefore provide schooling and healthcare for their kids. This is incredible in a country with a history of confining women to the house, let alone allowing them to work. Working with Zardozi allows the women to work from home, while they’re with their children, and still have an income.

The bags blew me away when I opened them yesterday. Only a few up are up on my site so far but more will be up soon. I love the Glitter Bag (above). It’s big enough for me with all the toddler gear I haul around and so pretty but sturdy too. My friend Katie was ooing and aaing over the Pomegrante Tote (below) when she saw it yesterday. And I can’t wait to show you the Kuchi bag, which I don’t have a good photo of yet. It has literally thousands of colorful stitches in this exuberant traditional style from a semi-nomadic people of Aghanistan plus those cute little mirrors you see sewn into South Asian textiles.

All in all, I’m thrilled to introduce Zardozi to the Bambootique family! Watch for more Zardozi products on my site in the next few days!