Syrian Refugee Women Find Dignity, Hope in Rug Weaving

One rug.

That’s all it takes to change the life of a refugee woman: the purchase of just one handwoven rug from the Anka Cooperative, a social enterprise created to empower Syrian women refugees.

But these rugs, like the lives of the women who weave them, are far more elaborate than a brief reveals.  That’s because each piece has more than 650,000 knots, fashioned out of the finest wool and natural dye. Best of all, the creation of the rug will employ one woman for up to a year.  

That’s the end goal of Anka: dignified employment for women who have been subject to the most undignified of conditions.

And now the group will soon expand thanks to the help of a Kickstarter campaign, which so far has brought in nearly $40,000 in contributions, double that of the group’s initial $20,000 goal.

That’s the end goal of Anka: dignified employment for women who have been subject to the most undignified of conditions.

I’m incredibly proud to support this project,” wrote Kickstarter contributor Sam Mallikarjunan. “Government aid is great, but helping people in need create their own sustainability is even better!”

A partnership with Woven Legends, an industry leader in fine carpeting, brought Anka into existence, and the cooperative has quickly become a bright spot in the dark land ever since.

By teaching these refugee women transferable skills, the partnership is providing them dignified work and enabling cultural integration into their new society, Anka has been able to make more than 250 women in two Turkish refugee camps entirely self-sustaining.

One of these women is Neriman from Damascus, according to Anka’s Kickstarter page.  In her early 40s with six children, Neriman was a college-educated accountant before the Syrian Civil War thrust her life into chaos.  As a person who plied her trade in numbers, she had no experience at all weaving delicate threads and tying minuscule knots to create beauty out of fabric. That was no matter; Neriman was determined.

Rug weavers with Anka pose in front of their product. Photo courtesy of the Anka Cooperative

Rug weavers with Anka pose in front of their product. Photo courtesy of the Anka Cooperative

“In the camps, of course, there are no accounting jobs, no freelancer websites to apply her trade,” Anka’s page explains.  “Idle time brings painful memories.  She jumped at the chance to work at the carpet workshop.  It’s a new skill, but she is learning — and just as important, she is earning.”

Paid the same as Turkish workers who ply the same trade, Neriman will soon purchase gold earrings for her daughters, and plans to buy a home when they return to Syria after the war.

To donate, head over to Anka’s Kickstarter page

Evan Smith is a Staff Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @Evansmithreport.
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