Monday, June 27, 2011
Review: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
Title: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: March 15, 2011
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is the inspiring story of Kamila Sidiqi, an Afghani woman who through her hard work and perseverance managed to support her family and her community. Shortly after Kamila's graduation from a secondary course, the Taliban took over the city of Kabul. Every day the Taliban issued edicts restricting more and more freedoms. People could no longer listen to the radio, dance, sing, fly kites, among other things. The prohibitions against women were damning. Women were forbidden from working, attending school, or leaving home without a male chaperon. In a country where there were few men due to war and migration, significant number of women were condemned to a life of poverty by these rules.
Kamila Sidiqi was tired of seeing her father and brother struggle to support the family. She kept looking for a way to help support her family while avoiding interference from the Taliban. Her older sister Malika had steady business making clothes for friends, family, and acquaintances. Seeing the brisk business her sister was doing, Kamila decides that being a seamstress would be a beneficial occupation. She made sample clothing, scouted for shopkeepers to sell her goods, and gained a network of customers. As word of her endeavor got out, more and more women came looking for work. Kamila decides to start a school to train seamstresses and run an apprenticeship program.
Due to the success of the school, Kamila was invited to participate in programs run by foreign organizations that worked to educate schooldchildren and develop women entrepreneurs. After working for these organizations, Kamila decided to form another business. She had opprotunites to travel to Washington D.C. at the invitation of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Kamila had the opportunity to travel to Italy for training and to be part of a MBA program for Afghani women.
The book provides a wider representation of Afghanis. Mr. Sidiqi was very adamant that his daughters be just as educated as his sons. He saw the way women benefited from access to educations and work opportunities. A female doctor was able to complete her education when her father offered to pay the Talibs not to disrupt her education or work in the community. Several neighbors became Taliban to feed their family and watch out for their neighbors. The woman, many of whom were widowed or separated due to better work opportunities elsewhere, supported their families any way possible..
Ms. Lemmon clearly admires Kamila and all the effort she put into creating a safe way to support her family and her neighbors. She spent time living among the people she was writing about. Clearly Kamila can be lauded for following through on her ambitions and selflessly sharing her knowledge with others. Ms. Lemmon manages to convey the will power and determination of all the women who banded together to create a vast underground network to maintain their communties and families.