Real Economic Development in Afghanistan

Monday, July 27, 2009

A successful woman-run rug business has been operating for the last five years in Afghanistan. Arzu Rugs currently employs 600 people and provides direct economic support to almost four times that many. Arzu means “hope” in Dari. In addition to the well-paying jobs created by the rug-weaving work, the company funnels its profits back to the community in the form of medical care, education, and social services that touch the lives of an estimated 100,000 Afghans.

Arzu was created by Connie Duckworth, a former partner at Goldman Sachs and an M.B.A. graduate of the Wharton School. Arzu Rugs’ innovative model combines the talents of women weavers in Afghanistan with private business, government, and the non-profit sector.

Senior Fellow for CAP’s Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative Susan Thistlethwaite talked with Connie about why her own Christian faith helped motivate her to start Arzu; what she has learned about Afghanistan, Islam, and women; and what she calls the “social entrepreneurship” model. They also discussed what she has learned from this work in Afghanistan about how sustainable economic development can best be done by working through the religious and cultural mores of a theocratic society. Duckworth’s work with Arzu may provide important clues for an economic solution to the Afghan conflict.

Source: Center for American Progress (link opens in a new window)