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Where are they now? - Rangina Hamidi

To celebrate Women’s History month this year, Thunderbird for Good is publishing a series of blogs putting the spotlight on our own women history makers – our scholars!  In the past 9 years since our founding, Thunderbird for Good has created and run training programs that have reached well over 100,000 women from 25 countries on 4 continents.  These scholars have gone on to create thousands of jobs, train tens of thousands of others in business and management skills, and strengthen the communities where they live.  Read on to find out more about these modern women history makers and what they have been accomplishing since their Thunderbird for Good training experience.

Written by: Anick Bizimana, Presidential Fellow, '14Rangina Hamidi1

Rangina Hamidi, an activist, community organizer and successful entrepreneur is simply one of those women who inspire all of us to keep going even in the face of adversity. Born in Kandahar, Rangina’s family first escaped the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan before settling in the United States in 1988. In 2003, she made the life-altering decision to return to Kandahar to help rebuild her country.

She founded Kandahar Treasure (http://kandahartreasure.com/), a co-operative where women artisans practice a unique Afghan style of embroidery called Khamak. This style, inspired by Islamic geometric design and floral motifs is considered to be one of the world’s finest embroidery techniques. The geometric shapes signify natural imagery, such as flowers, mountains, trees, and leaves. This practice involves the counting of threads of the fabric, opposed to copying and drawing patterns. All designs come from the imagination, using cotton fabric and silk threads. Products, such as pillows, tablecloths, clothing and accessories are embellished with this unique style and sold in various markets, including the United States.

Rangina2In 2005, Rangina participated in the first Project Artemis Afghanistan, a program that provides business skills training with the goal of building the expertise and success of promising women entrepreneurs.  Project Artemis was founded by U.S.-Afghan Women Council member and Thunderbird President Emeritus, Ambassador Barbara Barrett.  A big proponent of women’s entrepreneurship, Rangina returned to Afghanistan equipped with the necessary business skills to expand her company and bring to the world the beautiful creations of Afghan women.

“Business allows sustainability; business allows people to stand on their own two feet; business gives an opportunity for people to rebuild their own life…; I prefer doing business over charity because for me doing business gives me integrity. When a woman earns, it gives her power beyond our own understanding and imagination.”

What makes Kandahar Treasure a unique business venture is the creative way that Rangina addressed the challenges that the women of Afghanistan faced in her region. For example, she understood how important it is for Afghan women to be able to work from their homes and still participate in revenue-generating enterprises. For centuries, Khamak embroidery has been produced by women who gather in their homes to create pieces of functional art.  Kandahar Treasure builds on this tradition, allowing women a culturally acceptable way to gather and bring income into their households. Rangina also understood the challenges of working in a post war-torn country. As of today, Kandahar Treasure employs more than 400 women who have gained economic independence while exposing this art to the outside world.

In 2011, Rangina’s family faced some trying times, when Ghulam Haider Hamidi, Rangina’s father and then mayor of Kandahar City was Rangina3assassinated by a suicide bomber while conducting the daily duties of government at his post in Kandahar City. Such a tragedy would have caused anyone to think twice about continuing to do business in such an environment. “I was ready to give up”, Rangina has said, “but I realized that quitting would be selfish. My father sacrificed himself for his country. I decided I couldn’t leave people behind.” Instead, she spent time restructuring Kandahar Treasure so that the artists now manage their own work with very little supervision from her. Rangina continues to visit the business operations on a regular basis, although most of her efforts are focused on marketing the products internationally with the support from the US State Department.

“I would like the world to know that women stakeholders of their country, society and their family are better advocates for peace and stability in their nations.”

  Rangina4