• Awarded: 2008
  • Issue Areas: Early Childhood to Primary Education · Economic Opportunity · Education · Health · Health Delivery · Livelihoods
  • Region: Central and Southern Asia
  • Web:
  • About the Organization

    ARZU, which means “hope” in Dari , transforms lives by empowering Afghan women to lift themselves and their families out of poverty through ethical artisan-based employment, education, and access to healthcare, thereby changing the way they see the world and their place in it. ARZU is an innovative model of social entrepreneurship with a mission to create economic stability for communities in need.

    Through the sale of Afghan-made rugs and Peace Cord® bracelets, ARZU STUDIO HOPE supports a holistic approach to sustainable poverty alleviation through artisan-based employment that empowers Afghan women. Women, earning fair labor wages, weave exquisite hand-knotted rugs and paracord bracelets. Innovative social benefit practices drive transformational change by providing grassroots access to education, health care, clean water, and sustainable community development programs.

    ARZU weavers earn 68 percent more than the average Afghan. One hundred percent of ARZU weavers are literate, while 90 percent of rural Afghan women are not. To date, ARZU has not lost a single woman in childbirth, in a country with one of the highest maternal death rates.

    An entire generation of Afghan women suffers the effects of war and repression, manifested in illiteracy, high maternal and child mortality, and lack of opportunity.

    Arzu equips women launching rugmaking and other enterprises for success.

    Earnings of Arzu enterprises are invested back in the community.

    Women's centers, community centers, parks, and preschools are supported by Arzu enterprises.

    Ambition for Change

    Afghan women and their families break the cycle of poverty through the development of rugmaking and other businesses that provide steady income and support education and health care.


    Path to Scale

    Grow Profitable Businesses

    Local Afghan teams deliver, manage, and monitor the business development and establishment program on the ground. U.S.-based staff work with top designers and architects to produce exclusive designs and develop access to the luxury consumer market.

    Business Model

    Philanthropic and development agency support of community-based programs during the start-up phase, eventual profitability.

    Connie Duckworth made history as the first female sales and trading partner at Goldman, Sachs & Company. She has been sharing her business acumen to help other women for more than 25 years. She has authored a primer on entrepreneurship for women; chaired the Committee of 200, the national organization of pre-eminent businesswomen, and served on the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. In that role, she met dozens of desperate mothers living in a bombed out building with no windows, heat, furniture, sanitation or water with their children. On the plane home she outlined the vision for Arzu. She had no experience with international development, but she did know how to start and run a successful business. She provided seed capital for the first year of operations and continues to oversee Arzu’s operations.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • Created more than 700 jobs providing income and social benefits.
    • Constructed two women’s centers, a community center, a park, a community garden, and three preschools in Bamyan Province, Afghanistan.
    • Launched a second product line of handmade corded bracelets to provide additional employment opportunities.
    • Piloted the Superadobe construction method as a solution to the housing crisis in Bamyan.


    Connie DuckworthFounder and CEO, ARZU, Inc.

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