Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

As I was browsing the shelf of new books at my library, several books caught my eye - and this was one of them.  The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon tells the story of Kamila Sidiqi, an Afgani woman who came of age just as the Taliban took over Afganistan.

Kamila had just graduated from a two-year teacher training course, despite of her country's civil war.  She was looking forward to teaching at one of the many schools in Kabul, but soon after her graduation, the Taliban moved into the city, closing schools and forcing women indoors.

Kamila's story is one of courage, strength, and taking reasonable risks - all while trying to live within the rules imposed upon her as a woman.  Because of past political affiliations, Kamila's parents had to leave Kabul for the northern part of the country.  The journey was too dangerous to take all their children with them, so they left Kamila in charge of her younger siblings.

The responsibility became heavy as the streets were too dangerous for the young women to venture out.  Kamila and her sisters became bored and restless, and Kamila became anxious as she watched their reserves and savings dwindle.

Kamila searched for a solution, trying several ideas before deciding to start making dresses.  She risked the marketplace, found a buyer, and started a business which kept her and her sisters busy at home.  Over time, she hired more help, and then started an apprenticeship school for younger girls.

Kamila's story is remarkable.  Her drive, energy and determination are admirable.  But I especially admire her desire, and ability, to start a business within the severe restrictions imposed upon her.  Instead of fighting, and losing, a battle with the Taliban, Kamila worked hard to quietly pursue her dream - and she succeeded.

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