The Sewing Initiative: Micro Business Development Colorado volunteer teaches a vocational skill and provides in-kind grant assistance to initiate home-based businesses for Afghan women
Most women in Afghanistan have no means of supporting themselves or their families, and in the aftermath of war, many are faced with this responsibility. In addition to literacy training, the majority of the population needs vocational skill training in order to find employment.
In 2004, Fort Collins, Colorado volunteer Margaret Stockover envisioned a sewing project as a simple and practical means of providing skill training to develop occupational self reliance.
The vision was to teach Afghan women to make fabric items using traditional Afghan embroidery and ethnic patterns. These items would be purchased from the women as piece work, and sent to the United States to be sold. All proceeds from these sales would be returned to the Sewing Initiative, first to pay the women engaged in sewing, and then to expand the program by teaching more women. Money also would be used to purchase sewing machines to present to the women upon their graduation from sewing and tailoring classes, and help them establish home businesses as neighborhood tailors, an accepted and useful occupation for women in Afghan communities.
To make the project a reality, the Fort Collins volunteers asked ARO if they would partner and take the Sewing Initiative project under their wing. The result was extraordinary.
In two short months, the initial project money was raised and Margaret Stockover joined ARO on the 2004 relief trip to Afghanistan. A classroom in ARO's educational center was converted into a sewing room, an Afghan tailor hired as an instructor, and students began to construct not only kitchen accessories, but Gazni dresses, and beautifully embroidered women’s shirts and shawls. These items preserve and continue the traditional craftsmanship of Afghan embroidery, design and tailoring.
When the first group of women graduated from tailoring class, all nine were presented with sewing machines and basic tools such as scissors, needles and thread. These items were provided to assist the women in starting a home-based business. Some of the women are embroidering beautiful shawls, while others are making kitchen accessories and clothing.
Margaret Stockover remarked about her first trip, “The amazing thing about Afghan women is their ability to hope in the face of all odds. All they want is a chance. A chance for peace. A chance to provide for their families. A chance to live with some degree of security.”
“These are women just like us,” Margaret tells those who donate to help the program. ”They laugh, they cry. They want their children to grow up in a secure environment, with food to eat and a warm place to sleep. The Sewing Initiative seeks out women like these.”
The Sewing Initiative is in its infancy, and more work is needed to establish a reliable supply of items, but this project is well under way. Women in the program already have beautiful embroidery skills, and their potential is limitless. With our help, they can use these skills to provide for themselves and for their children.
- Here’s how you can help:
For more information on the Sewing Initiative, please feel free to e-mail project leader, Margaret Stockover, email@example.com
- Make a donation to ARO, with the notation “Sewing Initiative Project” on the check’s subject line. Please include your return address if you wish to receive a receipt for tax purposes. Donations can be mailed to:
Afghanistan Relief Organization, P.O. Box 866, Cypress, CA 90630.
- If you are a fabric wholesaler or supplier with large quantities of quality fabric to donate, a sewing machine manufacturer or distributor with new equipment to donate, or have other items to donate to this project, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your donation.