Rugs with a Cause ~ Arzu Studio Hope
If you have been reading us for a while, it’s pretty clear to you that we love products and businesses with a good story. This is one such GREAT story AND cause. It’s about Arzu Studio Hope.
Arzu (which means hope in Dari, a variety of the Persian language spoken in Afghanistan) was founded in 2004 by social entrepreneur Connie K. Duckworth. Connie left the world of finance to start this enterprise with the mission to promote women’s rights and economic empowerment in Afghanistan. She knew nothing about that country or about international development and nothing about rugs but she knew that she wanted to help women in Afghanistan break out of centuries of cycle of poverty. By helping them, she knew she would create the ripple effect of helping their children and their communities.
There is very little choice of jobs in Afghanistan for a woman to work outside the house, especially in the rural areas where there is little economic opportunity. The rug industry is one of the few culturally acceptable options in which women can work and thus, this is where Connie decided to implement her program to help them. Arzu Studio Hope is a rug weaving cooperative which pays women the market rate for their weaving labor plus incentive bonuses. In exchange, families must agree to send all children under the age of 15 to school full-time and must allow women in the household to attend Arzu literacy classes and to allow Arzu to assist pregnant women and newborns in obtaining pre-and post-natal care.
Buying an Arzu rug means that you are helping women in Afghanistan by giving them job opportunities, education for their children, pregnancy care, literacy aid and vocational training, among some of the life changing benefits. And, aesthetically, buying an Arzu rug means buying a beautiful heirloom piece of art that will gracefully adorn a room, one from which will exude a wonderful story of hope and certainly one of economic betterment. If you are lucky enough to be working with an interior decorator, send them to Arzu to have a custom rug designed for you. Or, of course, you can pick one up at one of these retailers (or even online), like the gorgeous one below:
If you are not in the market for a rug, consider the Peace Cord™ bracelets hand-woven by women in Afghanistan from parachute cord and authentic military uniform buttons. Peace Cord is a partnership between Arzu Studio Hope and Spirit of America. Like the rugs, the Peace Cord bracelets directly benefit Afghans by offering them fair wages and social benefits. 100% of net proceeds from bracelet sales are used to rebuild Afghanistan and foster peace. All that for $10 to $15 each. Buy here.
Also, you may want to watch this video featuring Connie, the Arzu Studio Hope founder, where she describes more about how and why she founded the cooperative.
Quite an inspiring woman, I'd say.