Afghani women in Delhi train fellow artisan refugees in commercially viable crafts

Farida Khair Khwa, 46, an Afghan refugee herself who arrived in India in 2016 runs an art and crafts training school with French designer Iris Strill for women refugees in South Delhi’s Jangpura. A growing trade in homewares and accessories by displaced makers helps preserve traditional craftsmanship — and provides them much-needed income.

The training school goes by the name ‘Silaiwaali’ was started by Farida and two of her friends in April, aiming to help the young refugee women in India. Now she teaches art and craft to at least 60 women refugees as well as Asylum-seekers free of cost along with other trainers. The shop is situated near Samman Bazar in Bhogal.

Samira Faizi, 41, who is also a trainer at the art and crafts school for refugees, took shelter in India in 2021.They make earrings, key chains, handbags, purses, coasters, traditional clothes, and food as well.

It’s no longer old-fashioned sympathy shopping — these are luxuries that can also give a livelihood and purpose. “Social enterprise  helped us a lot. To get more students, we went and spoke to the refugee women in Delhi about the idea and surprisingly, a lot of women were interested to learn it,” she told PTI.

She taught art and craft to women in Afghanistan 2014 to 2017 as well. She had to stop her practice when her family decided to move to India. Sitting  idle here for quite some time her best friend came up with this idea of joining the craft business here in India.

Many other Afghani refugees are skilled in pietra dura, or parchin kari — a technique of inlaid stonework dating back to the Roman period — the shop has continued to welcome refugees — including those escaping the Taliban insurgency.

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