This week, a Future Brilliance jewellery range has been launched during London Fashion Week under the brand Aayenda (which means ‘future’ in Dari, the lingua franca in Afghanistan).
Enthusiasts have described the project as one of national transformation; sceptics see it as overambitious.
This six-month course would teach her about design and techniques and how to sell to customers around the world, but being in a country of gender inequality and repressive edicts, she was not, as a woman, allowed to make the decision herself.
Finally, in January this year, Zada left her home accompanied by one of her sons and his wife to enrol alongside 35 other Afghan men and women (the ratio was two men to one woman) at the Indian Institute of Gems & Jewellery in Sitapura, Jaipur’s new jewellery quarter.
Zada is a pioneer in a new scheme, devised by the charity Future Brilliance, to create a network of skilled Afghan artisans who will set up businesses and spread their knowledge when Afghan security is handed back to its own administration next year.
It took Khala Zada two months to persuade her sons to let her come to Jaipur in India.
A 50-year-old widow from rural Afghanistan, Zada runs a small business making jewellery by hand out of tiny lapis lazuli beads.
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But Sophia Swire, the 49-year-old British businesswoman who founded the charity, has no doubts.
‘The aid tap is about to be turned off and we have to prepare the Afghans to be self-sufficient,’ she says. The woman who introduced pashminas to the western world back in the 1990s (she spotted the shawls being worn by beautiful female film stars at a Lahore party hosted by Imran Khan and tracked down their source in Nepal) has spent more than two decades working in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal.
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