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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 7 | May 2, 2002

Embroidering to Empower

Business student gives new hope to Afghani refugees.

By Helen Lewis

In their struggle to build new lives, scores of Afghani refugee women in Pakistan are relying on UBC Commerce valedictorian Salima Rawji and her colleagues.

One World Projects (OWP), the non-profit young entrepreneurial organization Rawji co-founded in 2000, is helping these women generate their own income by building a market for the intricate, traditional hand-embroidered shawls they create.

Under its Embroidering To Empower (E2E) program, OWP is importing the shawls to create a steady stream of income for the women, while giving its student volunteers invaluable experience in the business world. The program has raised more than $30,000 for the women over the past year.

"It's a lot of responsibility because you're working with real people who are counting on you," 22-year-old Rawji says. "These women are doctors and lawyers -- they have more education than I'll probably ever have -- but because of political and social unrest they've been forced out of their country, they're living in tents and can't do their usual work.

"Doing this project feels great because we're helping people -- not just giving charity but making real use of a skill they have." Rawji says OWP aims to create a sense of global community, giving young people the chance to help less fortunate people around the world through creative business strategies.

OWP's four directors, all under 25, oversee everything from transportation logistics to legal and tax issues to advertising and business development for the enterprise. Rawji, a human resources management major, has written the OWP marketing plan, developed the Web site, and poured countless hours into running the organization.

"It's been hugely beneficial -- OWP has helped me as much as it helps the women we're working with. I'm much more aware of international issues and the challenges of running a non-profit society. Through OWP, I've learned about working with people effectively and applying what I've learned in school," she says.

While working as one of OWP's directors, Rawji juggled her responsibilities as president of the Human Resource Management Club and co-director of the Commerce Mentor Program. She has also been completing an internship at gold mining giant Placer Dome.

The shawls are currently sold through Global Village Store and Interface Global Justice. For more information on OWP or to see the shawls, visit www.oneworldprojects.org.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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