Afghan war widows find solace in jewellery design

Afghan war widows find solace in jewellery design

By BHUMIKA POPLI | | 28 May, 2016
Khala Zada (centre) and the jewellery designs by the Afghan war widows who were trained at Amrapali’s workshop.

After the end of the bloody war which devastated  Afghanistan, several local women were left widowed, children were orphaned and houses were destroyed. In 2013, eleven Afghan war widows came to Jaipur for six months  to get training at Amrapali’s jewellery workshop. The classes were held five days a week, where these women  honed their skills in the art of jewellery making.

Recently, Amrapali presented a fabulous collection of Afghan lapis jewellery, at its flagship store in Khan Market, New Delhi which was a result of ardous efforts of these Afghan women.

The women were chosen by Sofia Swire, who is the co-founder of Future Brilliance and The Aayenda Jewellery Cooperative of Afghanistan. She talks about one of the war widows, Khala Zada who undertook training  as part of the workshop. “Khala Zada is an incredible artisan,” she says, “She learned how to design beaded necklaces and how to run a professional business on her own. When she was back from Jaipur to Afghanistan, her business doubled in the first six months. She also  developed an ability to carry a professional business. Not just that, she has also been training other women and motivating them to take up the craft. She shares the skills she learnt in Jaipur with other Afghan women. She is a perfect example of a powerful Afghan woman.”

The women were trained under the aegis of Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) wing of Amrapali jewels under the programme, Jewellery design and business management. The women were able to produce stunning results. They managed to produce a collection of jewellery pieces using silver and lapis from the Afghan mines.

Tarang Arora, CEO of Amrapali says, “Sofia came to us with a project idea and said this is imperative for the betterment of the society and is quintessential for upliftment of women. We were glad to be a part of something like this and it is thus, we took up this project. We organised this workshop to help widows from war-torn areas of Afghanistan. We wanted to help the women there, especially who had nothing to do.”

In 2013, eleven Afghan war widows came to Jaipur for six months  to get training at Amarpalli’s jewellery workshop. The classes were held five days a week, where these women  honed their skills in the art of jewellery making.

The Afghan artisans were trained in jewellery craftsmanship, design, gem-cutting and business management. The training programme was well-equipped and capable of bringing out future trainers among these women. This was accomplished by ensuring that the women acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to train others. Future Brilliance made sure that the women acquire skills in social media, m-commerce and basic IT skills to enable them to research, develop and sell products online using solar-powered Aakash tablets donated by the Indian company Datawind.

“As a design inspired brand, we take great pride in empowering women and enhancing their skills. As a conscientious organisation, we were delighted to partner with Future Brilliance to provide training as well as to support the Afghan women. We will help them grow their market wherever possible. We want to keep this association alive in the future as well. We are thankful to Sophia Swire for considering Amrapali for this noble endeavour”, says Rajiv Arora the founder of Amrapali.

The brand Aayenda is inspired by the rich cultural history of Afghanistan. It comprises over 130 styles in gold plated silver and base metals, with lapis fine beads. These are so fine and rare that they can be sourced only in two remote villages in Northern Afghanistan. It is here, the villagers under the leadership of Zada revived a 3000-year old tradition of hand-carving micro sized lapis beads, using diamond tipped needles and pomegranate twigs.

Royalties from the sales of Aayenda Jewellery have funded the construction of a workshop in Zada’s village. She has trained around 60 women in bead making and design. Zada and other women who ply in the trade have extended their reach and are selling their products in international markets now.

This noble initiative has created avenues of employment and income generation for hundreds of vulnerable women in war-torn Afghanistan in the last three years.

Zada, who is also the co- founder of the Aayenda Jewellery Cooperative is an illiterate widow. She inspires women to be self-reliant and encourage them to aim high. She developed belief in her abilities and flair as a designer during her training in Jaipur and during her internship with Amrapali.  Today, her designs are seen across the world. Her designs were on the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine’s April 2016 issue, where the jewellery designed by her was worn by the Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio. 

The horrors of the war might never fade away from their memories. And what these women lost in the war might never return too, but the widows like Zada and others have certainly found their way in the world again.

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