By Spc. Melissa StewartJuly 28, 2011
KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan " Combined Task Force Spartan’s Female Engagement Team and local Afghan women from Zharay District recently hosted a craft fair at the Zhari District Center. Local women from throughout the district produced several colorful items for sale, in only the second event of its kind at the district center.
Within 30 minutes of the doors open, the fair was filled with Spartan Soldiers and civilians browsing through the merchandise.
Scarves, jewelry, mirrors and even traditional Afghan wedding dresses were for sale. The women put obvious effort into all of the crafts that were sold, as everything from the traditional Afghan wedding dresses to the scarves were meticulously embroidered, embellished and beaded.
“I thought a lot of what they were selling was beautiful and different from what we see in America,” said Sgt. Samantha Hawes, chaplain’s assistant in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
The Afghan women themselves were not actually at the craft fair. They give their crafts to FET Soldiers, who then organized it on tables, kept inventory and sold the products. The money earned from the craft fair was counted by Soldiers of the Spartan FET, taken to the Forward Operating Base Pasab finance office, and exchanged for Afghan currency.
Once the money was exchanged into local currency, it was divided among the women who produced the crafts.
Women who work at the Zharay District Center and those who regularly come to the center for assistance came together to make the various crafts that were sold at the fair.
The craft sale at the district center is a decent source of income for the local women who participated. In the Afghan culture, women are extremely limited in what they can do to earn a living. Generally speaking, women are not allowed to pursue careers outside of the home.
Craft fairs at the District Center give these women a chance to use their skills to create sundry items and sell them for profit.
“It’s just trying to help the (women) out,” said Zakara, a helper in the women’s center adjacent to the Zhari District Center, who uses only a first name. “After God, it is these people that have been helping (me) out with taking care of (my) kids.”
Another craft fair is scheduled for early September. After the September craft fair, the goal will be to host sales monthly, to ensure local women earn a steady income, while enabling Spartan Soldiers an opportunity to purchase handcrafted Afghan merchandise.