Saturday, May 21, 2011
Book Review: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
By Gayle Tzemack Lemmon
Gayle Tzemack Lemmon, is a fellow and Deputy Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2004 she left ABC News to earn her MBA at Harvard, where she began to writing about women entreprenerus in conflict and post conflict zones., including Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Rwanda. Her reporting on entreprenueurs in these countries has been published by the NYT, CNN.com, and the Daily Beast.
I enjoyed reading Ms. Lemmon's book about Afghani women. It is not just about the Afghani women. It also gives you some back history. For instance, I did not know during the 50's ,it was exceptable to wear European clothing.
In 1992, the Mujadeen took over, your heads had to be covered. The Mujadeen began fighting in the streets, with competing factions. . I learned about the history leading up to 9/11, the Russian occupation.
Before 9/11, I don't know about anywhere else. But, in the U. S, most people did not hear of Afghanistan or care about it till after 9/11. " Afghanistan was forgotten by the rest of the world. Turned off, but after 9/11, the United States notices them."
Most girls were allowed out with out a chaperone. Kamilia's father believed all of his children should be educated, including the girls. But, by the Taliban came into power, Girls were not allowed to be educated. They were not allowed out of the house. Kamilia became a teacher, but by then most women had been confined to their homes. They could not work.
They had to be covered head to toe. They had to be covered with the well know "burqa". They were prohibited in wearing high heels, no make up, Jewelry.
They could not speak to a man that was not related. They had to speak softly. They could not go to the market, without being accompanied by a male.
They could not be measured by a tailor, there wasn't any music, or any movies they were allowed to see. Not any fancy clothes. Or you would be beaten in front of everyone to see.They had to be made a example. Any woman had to be accompanied by a chaperone.( male or a girl younger than 13).
Most of the men that were left behind, were too old, they were killed, or taken to fight with the Taliban. Most women, still had to survive and if they were caught walking the streets they were beaten.
Ms. Lemmon decided to search out and find out if there were businesses run by women that were flourishing. She found one such woman. Her name was Kamilia Sidiqi, she is 17. She owned a shop that made clothing.
Both their parents left Kabul, to go up north. Because her father was a important politician that was retired in the old regime. But, her family was afraid that the taliban would think he would sell secrets. He was a danger to the Taliban. He, and and his wife went up north, and left their 11 children to their own devices. Except one of their son's left because he was at the age to be fighting along with the Taliban.
Kamilia was the responsible one. She knew she had to do something for them to survive. She decided she wanted to learn a trade. She wanted to learn to sew, this would bring income to the family. She realized that the economy was collapsing. But, women still needed simple clothing.
She decided she and her brother, Rahim( chaperone) would go with her to talk to the shopkeeper in the bazaar. He put his small order in. She was so excited. All her sisters and brothers went to work to make the order. Kamilia then went to a tailor shop. The owner was a friend, and he put his order in.
They realized that the business was growing. One room was their communal room, was now made into the business. All the material was laid down, and they got to work. Their sister, Malika was making wedding gowns as well. Their business started to thrive. Kamilia learned to have good business skills that made her business grow. Word got around and many people were putting their order in.
Other women in the community got wind of this, and came to Kamilia looking for work. The business was getting so overwhelming. Kamilia got a brain storm, to run a sewing school.
I would have been scared. I can see how many women would have given up. Women were not allowed outside without a chaperone. Most men were taken away from their homes. They were either killed or forced to be in the Taliban. Many women,were beaten on the streets, if they did not have burqa( if it was not covering head to toe), including the shoes they wore, if their shoes made noises, if there hands showed, if they shopped alone. Anything that would draw attention to themselves.
What could you do if you had no one at home, not a chaperone. What if you were living by your self. Kamilia's family was very lucky she had 11 brothers and sisters. But, what about women that did not have anyone at home?
You needed to get food and supplies for your yourself. What terrible conditions they lived in. But, Kamilia and her sisters found a way. What inspiration. I truly loved reading this bookThis book gave us a inside view of what Afghanistan is like for young women.
She was a good inspiration for her family and the people of Afghanistan. To show even in hard times there were women that survived and able to do good for her community.
I enjoyed reading Dressmaker of Khair Khana, it gave us a open eye view what it was like for women in Afghanistan before and after 9/11. She gave us the politics, and the history of Afghanistan,women's hardships.
I am very glad I read this book and I would recommend it to anyone that is interested in Woman's rights, and Women's health issues, and the issues of Afghanistan. There is a nice article you can read here about her work in Afghanistan.