Afghanistan—Redefining Boundaries

In the opening chapter of their new book Embroidering within Boundaries–Afghan Women Creating a Future, Rangina Hamidi and Mary Littrell provide an honest depiction of the harsh realities of daily life for Afghan women.

“As a woman with limited or no schooling and in a culture that prohibits women from appearing in public, the Afghan woman knows little about options for her life. She has few skills and little time for generating sustainable income outside the home. Boundaries restrict and engulf her life in many ways.”

But this is only one set of boundaries. Rangina and Mary also describe a textile tradition where “Embroidered boundaries enclose the fine decorative filling stitches of Kandahari women’s khamak embroidery”–one aspect of the women’s lives over which they have control, and have had for centuries. Looking at the perfectly executed stitches of khamak shows the value, and the beauty, of working within boundaries.

How these stitched boundaries and the cultural and socio-economic boundaries converge is the heart of Embroidering within Boundaries. The book details the creation of Kandahar Treasure, an Afghan women-led social enterprise, and how that enterprise revived an ancient textile tradition to help generate income for hundreds of women. Throughout the book several poignant profiles of Kandahar Treasure embroiderers illustrate how they have gained confidence, education, and the will to lead their families into a more stable and prosperous future. Each woman’s story reveals how she has redefined her boundaries. All are role models of strength and persistence.

Redefining Boundaries
Paindo, a Kandahar Treasure embroiderer, works on an original design. Photo by Mary Littrell.

Let the courage and the vision, the talents and the wisdom of these Afghan women be our inspiration, our way forward.


Learn more about the  lives of these remarkable women in Afghanistan, Pashtun culture, khamak embroidery, and Kandahar Treasure. Embroidering within Boundaries is available now through ClothRoads, your favorite Local Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

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