Images: Arzu Studio Hope
What could holler good taste and social conscience like a fair trade rug designed by architect Zaha Hadid? Since 2003, a non-profit called Arzu Studio Hope has been working with women weavers in Afghanistan to create high-end woven rugs that empower the weavers with income, education, healthcare, and skill development. These "illiterate, destitute, afghan weavers" earn market rates for their work, plus a 50% bonus. In return, all children in these families under the age of 15 must be in school full-time, women must be allowed to attend Arzu literacy classes, and families must permit Arzu to take pregnant women and newborns for medical care.If Arzu sounds like serious business, look at whose behind it. The venture was founded in 2003 by Connie Duckworth, formerly partner and managing director of Goldman, Sachs, & Co. She's now the pro bono chairman and CEO of Arzu, overseeing the production as well as the social initiatives intended to empower Afghan women (a third of Arzu's weavers are widows) and bring economic sustainability and democracy to the country.
Arzu is producing both contemporary and very traditional rugs, and has partnered with stars like Zaha Hadid and designer Thomas Schoos, and even developed a Common Threads line with Designtex, an eco-friendly offshoot of Steelcase.
Not only is Arzu turning out stunning rugs and paying fair wages, but the non-profit venture is building resources like a women's community center, a community garden and greenhouse, and a wellness complex, all of which broke ground in June of 2009. Arzu is also involved in building rainwater catchment systems in the dry northern regions.
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