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LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: From Afghanistan to Mali

Dear Friend of Rubia,

Thank you for your support of Rubia over the past decade. As you may know Rubia was founded in 2000 during the Taliban rule of Afghanistan by ethno-linguist Rachel Lehr. Rubia’s mission was to give impoverished Afghan refugee women in Pakistan the chance to earn money selling their traditional embroidery in the US and to empower them through literacy, life skills and sustainable livelihoods. Since its inception Rubia has steadily expanded its mission to include women and their families in Afghanistan, the US and Africa.

2014 has been a momentous year for Rubia. Our Afghan partner, Humanitarian Organization for Local Development (HOLD), has trained 300 women and 100 men in human rights, literacy and health through our Threads of Change curriculum.

Rubia applies a similar approach closer to home in Manchester, New Hampshire, combining education with income generation through its Sewing Confidence (SC) program. Thanks to the Lincoln Financial Foundation, women hailing from Bhutan, Haiti, Iraq, Burma, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi have learned advanced sewing and business development skills.

In 2013-14 a team of Notre Dame students, with support from the Kellogg Institute, analysed the applicability of the Rubia model in post-conflict Afghanistan to Mali, a West African country now rebuilding in the aftermath of a 2012 rebellion followed by a coup d’etat. The 2013 democratic election of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita offers a hopeful moment for this battered predominantly Muslim nation. Rubia would like to be part of Mali’s return to peace and democracy.

In July I traveled to Mali with Board member Kimberly McLaughlin to meet with bogolan (mudcloth) artisans at nine different enterprises. Bogolan is hand-woven cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud. It has an important place in traditional Malian culture and has become a symbol of Malian cultural identity. The cloth enjoys increasing popularity worldwide and is used in fashion, fine art and decoration. Rubia is now piloting two bogolan partnerships, with the Tanti Bogolan Women’s Association in Djenne (a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site) and with Ndomo workshop in Segou. Djenne has long been a popular tourist destination, but recent warnings of kidnapping and terrorism have scared foreigners away. Bogolan artisans who formerly sold their textiles to tourists now struggle for survival.

Income from Rubia’s bogolan sales in the US enables the Malian artisans to buy food and pay school fees for their children, keep their cultural heritage alive and pass it on to the next generation and provide a piece of the solution to Mali’s pressing unemployment crisis.

The support of donors like you has enabled Rubia to accomplish a lot in 2014. But there is so much more to be done. After the American troops leave Afghanistan, Rubia plans to continue empowering Afghan women through income and education, but with a major Dining for Women grant ending in 2014, we need your support more than ever to continue this work. 

 Please contribute to Rubia today: www.rubiahandwork.org. If you prefer, you can send a check to PO Box 1644, Manchester, NH 03105.  Your tax-deductible donation will help us transform the lives of more impoverished women in Mali, Afghanistan and North America. Your purchase of Rubia goods at the upcoming exhibit, “From Birds to Beasts: the Audobon’s Last Great Adventure,” at the Currier Art Gallery in Manchester, NH or from Green Goods in Concord, NH will support Rubia’s multi-cultural mission and add beauty to your life.

Thank you for giving the gift of dignity.

 

With gratitude, 

Catherine Rielly, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Rubia