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An exciting new partnership between high street retailer Monsoon and development agency Christian Aid, which will help revive the two thousand-year-old tradition of silk production in Afghanistan, was announced today. The two-year project aims to lift 1,500 women and their families out of extreme poverty and potentially lead to international market access for silk producers in the country.
The silkworm project is based in Herat, in western Afghanistan, an area that has a long history of silk production and was once a stop on the Silk Road trade route. The area is ideal as the mulberry trees which the silkworms feed on thrive in the dry climate. The project aims to increase the number of silk rearers by providing the women with silkworms and training to cultivate the silk cocoons.
It will also help to improve the efficiency of a number of processing centres, where the cocoons are spun into silk thread. A number of women will be selected to receive looms and training to produce silk goods, such as scarves and handkerchiefs and sell their goods in the local market, improving on the pre-existing skills and technology in the area.
Women have historically been the backbone of the garment and textile industries in Afghanistan and this project is focused on helping widows and women-headed households by enabling them to earn their own money.
The project will not only help the women secure a way to make a living, but the extra income will enable their families to have better access to healthcare and education. The profit the women make can be reinvested in future production, making the project a long term and sustainable one and not reliant on aid.
Olivia Lankester, Head of Corporate Responsibility for Monsoon said: ‘Monsoon started out sourcing hand embroidered silk kaftans from Afghanistan and so this new venture, helping women to revive the silk industry in Afghanistan, is the perfect way to celebrate Monsoon’s 40th anniversary this year and build a better future for thousands of families.
‘We have decided to work with Christian Aid because they operate through experienced local partner organisations who know how to empower local communities, have had a presence in the country for almost three decades and therefore are ideally placed to run the project for the Monsoon Accessorize Trust.’
In Afghanistan, where work opportunities for women are often limited, Christian Aid has already helped thousands of women earn an income by harvesting silk cocoons from silkworms in their own homes.
Serena Di Matteo, Christian Aid Country Director said: ‘We are very grateful for this new support from Monsoon, it will enable the existing project to continue, escalate and reach many more people.’
Serena added: ‘Women suffered under the Taliban by not having access to education or the freedom to make a living. The silkworm project provides them with a way to make a living, improve their role in society and therefore gives them a future that they would not have had before.
‘After 30 years of conflict the Afghanistan economy has suffered, and with the international community pulling out the economy will continue to suffer. Market development projects which revive existing crafts such as silk production are critical to provide jobs for the most vulnerable and boost the country’s economy.’
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Notes to Editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.
2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. We believe that the underlying causes of poverty were made by, and can be ended by, human action. Our strategy for building the power of us all to end poverty is embodied in a new report ‘Partnership for Change’: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/2012_strategy.pdf
3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org
4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire
5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk
6. Monsoon is celebrating 40 Years of Fashion in 2013 – starting from one store in Beauchamp Place, London in 1973 – growing into a global brand in several countries. Monsoon was a founding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).
7. The Monsoon Accessorize Trust helps over 10,000 women and children in Asia every year, through education and healthcare projects and by helping to create livelihoods for disadvantaged communities. Set up in 1994, the Trust focuses on communities where Monsoon has a trading link, either now or historically. The Trust is UK registered charity (No 1038446). For more information, please go to www.monsoontrust.org