As part of a cultural exchange and collaboration initiative, Zardozi invited representatives of the Indonesia-based household empowerment programme called PEKKA—an initiative similar to Zardozi in many ways.
This trip was a follow up to Zardozi’s visit to Indonesia in May, 2015, and an opportunity for both organizations to learn from one another. Having been around much longer, PEKKA had a lot of experiences to share with Zardozi during the visit last year.
Much like Zardozi in Afghanistan, PEKKA supports female heads of households to contribute towards a gender-equal society. There are 750 PEKKA groups in 475 villages of 19 provinces across Indonesia, working with widows, women abandoned by their husbands, and unmarried women who have dependants.
PEKKA received various accolades and has been named as the best project funded by the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF) and the World Bank.
Last month, Zardozi hosted Nani Zulminarni, director at PEKKA, along with their manager of institutional development Kodar Tri Wusananingsih in Kabul from February 20 to 25. While here, they visited several manbehs (community business centres), an event celebrating successful Zardozi women, as well as an exhibition conducted by the Kabul regional office. They also met with Zardozi clients and Kadar (volunteers) getting a firsthand account of Zardozi’s work in Afghanistan.
“We were very impressed with the way Zardozi responds to the situation of women, especially towards women at the grass root level, in an urban setting of Kabul,” said Zulminarni, who is also a well known women’s activist in south Asia. Her work in gender equality and development, was sharpened by her personal experiences of being a divorcee in a discriminatory society.
Since then, however, Nani has managed to mobilise hundreds of underprivileged women under the PEKKA umbrella.
And so, her visit to Kabul was a mutually enriching experience for her and Zardozi.
Talking about lessons learned, Zulminarni shared, “We learned so much from the approach that Zardozi uses, to respond to the difficult situation of women living in an insecure environment and dealing strong traditions in these spaces.”
“Nisfe Jahan is a good initiative that allows women to work together and build a strong community that shares experiences and learns from each other,” Wusananingsih shared. “It will help improve their conditions in society.”
Another take back for the PEKKA representatives was Zardozi’s initiatives to not just train women in business skills, but also to connect them to markets. “Zardozi uses different strategies to link these women with markets, for example, by conducting exhibitions and providing capital to start shops in their own homes,” she added. “These are things we need to learn from Zardozi since markets are very important in economic development.”
PEKKA representatives were also intrigued with Zardozi’s attempts to reach out and connect with family members of their clients, through events that celebrate successful women. “Not only are the women appreciated at such events, but also their family members—especially supportive husbands—this is very strategic smart approach in a context where women have lots of restrictions,” she said.
“It helps set a good example for families of other women,” added Wusananingsih.
The visit by PEKKA representatives concluded with a commitment for long term engagement between the the two organizations.