Stitches of Hope: Qobra’s Story
Qobra’s eyes have a special sparkle to them that you just can’t forget. This warm woman has experienced so much tragedy in her life, but she hasn’t let it define her. Growing up under Taliban rule, Qobra wasn’t given the opportunities she needed to receive an education and earn an income. But today, she works as an Artisan with Noonday’s partner business, earning a fair income for her family while putting her amazing embroidery skills to use! Read on as Qobra shares her incredible story in her own words.
“My name is Qobra Nikzad. I am 35 years old and I was born in the Qarai Shuhada area in Kabul. When I was a child, I had two younger sisters, three older brothers, and two younger brothers. But it was a dangerous time to be a child in Kabul. There was civil war and so much violence.
When one of my younger brothers was nine years old, he was hit by a rocket and died immediately. I wasn’t able to go to school after that. I spent my life at home, helping my mother with the housework and sometimes doing embroidery with her. Many girls in Afghanistan learn this craft from their mothers and spend their free time making special embroidered things.
I learned when I was nine years old. I remember the very first thing I made: a white handkerchief with blue flowers. After I finished it, my mother admired my embroidery work and said, “You should throw the handkerchief into the river, Qobra – then you will become a master of embroidery!” This is a good luck tradition among the Hazara people. If you throw your first work into the river, it is a way of asking to become more skilled.
When I was 15 years old, another tragedy happened in my life. My mother was walking to the bus stop with my younger brother. Suddenly a rocket came from the mountains and hit my mother. She died immediately – my younger brother was walking a few meters ahead and was thankfully unhurt.
When I was 17 year old, my family moved to Quetta City, a border city between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as refugees. As is traditional in my region, I got married to my uncle’s son, Khan. I was 20 years old at the time. Finally, in 2002 the Taliban regime ended, and I was able to return with my family to Kabul.
Today I am blessed to have four children – three sons and a daughter. My sons are Mohammad Jalal (12), Ali Meraj (7), and Mesawer (2). My daughter is 10 and her name is Tamano.
Before I began working with Noonday’s partner business, things were very hard for my family. My husband sells household things in the market, but it was never enough to support our family. We could usually feed the children but the money wasn’t enough to provide them with good quality foods they needed to be healthy.
Then, eight years ago, I found out about this artisan business and the opportunity to use my embroidery skills to help support my family. The business had their office near my house and I got some information about it from some other women. That was in 2007. I knocked on the door for the first time and went in to see if I could get a job doing embroidery. Hiromi, the woman who runs the business, asked my to bring some samples that showed off my work.
I quickly went back home and embroidered some small flowers on a cloth. When I came back about ten minutes later, Hiromi was so surprised and started laughing! She could tell I really wanted the job and that I had enough skill to do the work because it had taken me such a short time to return with my sample. She gave me the job and I am still working with the business eight years later.
Qobra dancing with her friends at the workshop.
My favorite thing about my work is that now I can give my children the life they should have. I can help support my family, which makes me feel proud. I can buy things the children need for school like stationery and uniforms. When I save up my money, I can improve my home too. I now have curtains, a Toshaq (a long traditional cushion), and items for my kitchen. Life is developed and comfortable for my family now that I am able to have this work!
I am happy to have a job where I can use the embroidery skills my mother taught me. My favorite kind of embroidery to do is called gire dozi – a pretty rose stitch. I hope that all of Noonday’s customers will love our work too. I think that all of the colorful threads and many different types of embroidery we put on every piece is what makes our work special!
To all of Noonday’s customers and Ambassadors I want to say thank you for purchasing our work. We appreciate you so much and are proud that you love our embroidery! We put a lot of time into every piece. Because our hours are flexible, we can work around caring for our families. One clutch takes a woman 3-5 days to make, depending on how much time she has to work each day. Also, because electricity in Afghanistan is not stable, we sometimes work by candlelight. We put so much into every piece we make for you.
We are wishing and hoping to get even more work – so please share our pieces with others and tell them our story!”
Shop the Qobra Clutch, handmade in Afghanistan by Qobra and her friends!
Meet Jenna Tanner
Jenna is Noonday’s Content Curator and loves to write about fair trade, social justice and Artisans around the world. She also enjoys marathoning her favorite TV shows with her husband, playing intense games of Ticket to Ride, and searching for the best tacos in Austin (let her know if you find them!).