Rubia promotes women’s empowerment through literacy, education and income generation from the sale of their heritage handwork. An American scholar started Rubia as a grassroots embroidery project in Pakistan in the year 2000 when desperate Afghan refugees asked her to help them find a means to earn income. These impoverished embroiderers, who belong to the minority Pashai tribe, continued selling their handwork through Rubia when they returned to their homes in Eastern Afghanistan when the Taliban was overthrown after September 11, 2001. Over the past 14 years, Rubia’s literacy and embroidery projects have grown, in spite of worsening poverty, increasing insecurity, and a rise in Islamic fundamentalism. All aspects of the development and implementation of Rubia’s programs are rooted in local culture, using community members at all levels to help build the economy and capacity in their home region. Most recently, 600 Afghan women participated in “Threads of Change,” a curriculum that integrates health, human rights and literacy with handwork. In 2007, Rubia spread to Manchester, New Hampshire in response to the needs of impoverished refugees from Central African who had fled the genocide and were trying to rebuild their lives in the US. “Sewing Confidence,” Rubia’s American program, has expanded over the past five years to include financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Rubia is considering expanding its work to other countries, including Mali.
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