‘Dressmaker of Khair Khana’ a tale of strength, perseverance and courage

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

One day Kamila Sidiqi proudly received her teaching degree during the Afghanistan civil war. The next she was confined to her home when the Taliban seized control of Kabul, ordering women from the workplace and forcing them to wear a full chadri, covering their bodies from head to foot, when they absolutely had to leave the house.

Within months of the Taliban’s arrival her father and brothers were forced to leave the city in order to avoid the dangers of the new regime. With no adult male to work outside the home to make money for the family, Kamila was forced to find a way to provide for herself, younger brother and four sisters, all without leaving the house. “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana” is the incredible true story documented by Gayle Tzemch Lemmon, a journalists who specializes in telling the stories of female entrepreneurs in war-torn countries.

During a trip to the market with her younger brother serving as chaperon, Kamila realizes there is still a market for dresses and clothing for women, but the imported Persian dresses are no longer filling the shops. She sees an opportunity for her and her sisters to make dresses and pants suits from their home, an endeavor that wouldn’t break the strict Taliban rules. But there were two major problems, Kamila didn’t know how to sew, and she would need to negotiate with male shop owners, breaking the law that prohibited women from speaking to men they were not related to.

The first problems was solved relatively easily, as Kamila’s older, married sister was an expert seamstress and Kamila proved a quick study. There was no way around the second challenge, but with no other options to make money to provide for her siblings, Kamila faced immense danger to solicit business, grow her customer base and eventually create a thriving business using needle, thread and fabric that not only supported her family, but also the entire neighborhood, giving dozens of women the ability to contribute to their family’s income.

Kamila’s story is a harrowing account of a woman raised to value education, family and community and her efforts to not just help her own family, but also her country during one of the most oppressive times for women in Afghanistan history. “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana” also sheds light on a story that is not often told by the media. Instead of focusing on death, bombings and the atrocities of war, it offers an encouraging look at the strength of Afghani women and what they are capable of accomplishing even when facing immense obstacles.

I would definitely recommend adding “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana”  by Gayle Tzemch Lemmon to your reading list.

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