The news is full of exposés detailing the victimization of women through torture and egregious crimes, such as child-brides refusing to marry or daughters being sold off like chattel to repay opium drug debts to war lords. Last year’s YouTube video depicting the faceless “woman in the blue bra” in Tahrir Square brought out thousands of Egyptian women who urged the military to stop the violence, even as female protestors were stripped and dragged naked into the streets.
Chicagoans can meet a Chicago-area leader who has been working quietly behind the scenes as an ambassador for peace and change since 2004.
Connie K. Duckworth, a twenty-year executive and board director in business, founded ARZU STUDIO HOPE, a not-for-profit organization whose name ARZU means “hope” in Dari. Its unique, groundbreaking business model generates broad-based community benefits for its employees who are destitute, highly-skilled Afghan women.
Instead of leaving their villagers to work for shareholders or investors, women weavers work within their homes (preserving their cultural roots) while benefitting directly from their success. They are protected by fair-labor employment standards and have access to opportunities for their children. Families receive education and healthcare in remote rural provinces that otherwise lack the necessary resources.
The future role and legacy of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is uncertain as the U.S. plans the drawdown of troops by the end of 2012, and the struggle for peace and human rights is not over. However, private efforts, like Duckworth’s can create sustainable economic improvements for women and communities throughout Afghanistan.
On March 1st, the International Women’s Associates (IWA) will honor Duckworth as its 2012 Woman Extraordinaire. IWA is a Chicago-based non-profit organization with a long history of connecting women with diverse international backgrounds in the interest of promoting global understanding and human rights. IWA’s annual award has honored Chicago area women like Duckworth for their outstanding personal contributions that bolster IWA’s global understanding mission since 1996. Former recipients include Anna Eleanor Roosevelt and Marjorie Benton.
For more information about attending the event or to learn more about IWA, visit: http://www.iwachicago.org/events/woman-extraordinaire/