UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 7 | May
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.