Zahra Kazemi, the founder of Women Weavers of Bamyan, has endured many challenges owning and operating her business. Her Afghan embroidery business was on hold for two years before eventually being forced to shut down permanently. After immigrating to Pakistan, she married and worked from home for four years before moving back to Afghanistan. Until 2013 when she received her official business license, Kazemi was operating from a small metal bunker-like structure. Mary Mag Mcken supported Kazemi in securing a Canadian contract to produce small-sized rugs, known as Kaleena. 50 women were initially hired for this contract, the first women in Bamyan to support their families independently.
Shortly thereafter, the operation expanded, and Kazemi’s staff more than tripled supporting 200 women, after getting approval from their families and local mosques. Steadily, the number of employees continued increasing to 400 members operating in Bamyan plus four additional districts in Afghanistan: Panjaw, Waras, Kawland, and Sheeba. Even with approval, scaling the business proved to be daunting with deliveries and distribution solely accomplished by pack animals. Plus, without electricity, women work only by daylight next to a mountainside because there is not a workshop in these remote locations equipped to accommodate the growing number of staff.
Despite all of these challenges, Zahra Kazemi remains an entrepreneurial inspiration to the Afghan community. The beautifully embroidered and handwoven products made of natural materials, such as cotton and silk, produced by her team are exquisite. In addition to Kaleena, Women Weavers of Bamyan produces multiple handmade products including vests, jackets, laptop bags, backpacks, sandals, tunics, scarves, and more. As the business continues expanding, Kazemi’s main objective is to provide opportunities for less-educated women to learn life skills and provide for their families.
Kazemi believes giving women purpose in their communities creates long-term economic stability and prevents listlessness stemming from living in a war-torn country. To date, the Bamyan Weavers collective has now launched careers of nearly 500 women allowing them to take charge of their lives while positively impacting their communities. Supporting Women Weavers of Bamyan means infusing meaningful wages into small villages as these women work by their hands earning and keeping their wages to support themselves and their families. Aseel is proud to partner with Women Weavers of Bamyan sharing their stories and products on our global platform.