Meet the woman stitching together a future for Afghanistan’s women and girls

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Rangina Hamidi was in her governmental office on August 15, 2021 putting the final touches on a draft for reforming Afghanistan’s education system, one of the tasks she felt was most important in her role as the country’s Minister of Education. She was told by an aid that other officials had fled, but she was undeterred by the rumors of the Taliban’s moving in on Kabul, so she finished her draft and sent it to then-president Ashraf Ghani, who had hand-picked her for the role.

He never got the draft. Ghani had fled the country, and Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Despite meeting with the Taliban in the days after the group assumed power and being told she could stay, Hamidi fled to her adoptive home, the United States.

She is not afraid of the Taliban although they murdered her father, the former mayor of Kandahar, in 2011. But she knows that given the current situation in the country, she can do more for the women and girls of Afghanistan from the United States. And that is exactly what she is doing.

“I have been able to teach the women that their integrity, their honor, their dignity lies in not begging, but in producing.”

Hamidi started Kandahar Treasure, an organization that employs Afghan women who specialize in an intricate form of embroidery. It’s a skill that is well-respected, if not expected, in Afghan culture. Hamidi learned that women around the world find the skill very valuable and are willing to pay well for the one-of-a-kind handmade items.

She partnered with the Ibu Foundation, a Lowcountry-based nonprofit that supports female artisans around the world by marketing their goods at a fair price and providing them with resources to continue their crafts.

When the Taliban took over, operations stopped. But Hamidi said that the women of Kandahar Treasure were eager to get back to work despite the risks.

Hamidi negotiated with the Taliban, convincing them to let Kandahar Treasure continue operating. It’s good business, she said, and the women-only business model conforms to the Afghan idea of separate societies. But it also prepares women for a future without Taliban rule.

Hamidi said that “the foundation of any sustainable change in a woman’s life is education,” and she intends to continue championing that education no matter what obstacles she may face.

Stay tuned to see the full interview with Hamidi.