Etsy Is Helping Support and Empower 25+ Afghan Refugees, and Their Handmade Creations Are All Stunning

published Jun 17, 2022
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Credit: Hunter Lacey

After leaving her homeland, Afghanistan native Palwasha moved to Buffalo, New York, with her family in October 2019. She has six children (two of whom she remains separated from while they await Special Immigrant Visas), an astounding sewing expertise, and — now thanks to Etsy — her own small business.

Palwasha is just one of more than 25 Afghan refugees that Etsy aims to help support as part of their ongoing Uplift Makers Program, which creates economic opportunities for artisan communities. Ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20, the brand is partnering with nonprofit organization Nest to establish a new program called the “Afghan Refugees Collective.” That means that, as of today, 20+ Afghan refugee-owned shops (with more to come!) will debut on the Etsy site, featuring everything from one-of-a-kind handmade pillows to wall decor.

This initiative provides an empowering platform for these new, majority-female shop owners — some of whom didn’t even have bank accounts prior to joining Etsy — to celebrate their crafts and financially assist themselves and their families after resettling in the United States. Etsy itself has also donated $200,000 to the collective as a means of kickstarting each refugee small business. The products themselves feature traditional Afghan needlework skills and styles, resulting in beautiful, high-quality designs that you’ll genuinely want to browse… and buy. Prices skew fairly reasonable across the board, too, especially given the thoughtful, handmade nature of each piece.

If you’re interested in shopping small and supporting an inspiring cause, check out the full list of Afghan Refugees Collective participants on the Etsy site (including Palwasha, mentioned above). It’s impossible to play favorites, but I highlighted a few standout sellers below:

1 / 5

Formerly an elementary school teacher from Kabul, Afghanistan, Mursal of Kabul Designs has learned to sew handbags and home decor since coming to the United States in 2021. That includes this pretty pair-with-anything handmade cotton pillow cover, complete with gray, white, and yellow stripes, plus decorative pom-poms along the top corners. “I look forward to using the income from my shop to build a great future for my family,” Mursal, currently based in Dallas, adds in her Etsy bio.

2 / 5

Fariba, owner of Fariba Honar, specializes in creating unique, handmade home decor, from display-worthy serving trays to elegant table linens. This wood board specifically shows off her newfound resin art craftsmanship, which she’s paired with gold leaf details and white, blue, and rose gold hues for a hosting staple that doubles as countertop art.

3 / 5

Originally from Helmand, Afghanistan, Zainab of ZLA Designs learned embroidering, crocheting, and sewing before getting married in 2016. Now, living in Texas since 2019, she’s able to help support her family and share her bespoke needlework designs. “By opening my Etsy shop, I feel I am achieving my dreams, little by little,” she says. Her page currently showcases some of the most beautiful floral napkin sets and cushion covers I’ve seen to date, each of which takes Zainab two hours to hand embroider.

4 / 5

Mahtab Moon founder Mahboobah, who currently resides in Seattle after leaving Afghanistan, has learned a handful of crafting skills since coming to the U.S. — her favorite of which is making decorative wall hangings and ornaments. I especially love her natural, earth-toned tapestry, but there’s no shortage of equally alluring wall hoops, tassels, pillow covers, and even a silverware pouch available for purchase. “I hope to use my earnings and put it back into my business, make it bigger, and be able to help other Afghan refugee families,” Mahboobah writes in her shop description.

5 / 5

Beautiful, intricately-detailed tabletop accents await you at Meher DIY, an Etsy shop owned by Dallas-based Masooda. Drawing inspiration from her family, the mom of six initially learned to sew from her own mother but is also well-versed in embroidery and crocheting. You’ll see those skills at work in this minimalist cotton table runner, which is trimmed with a delicate hand-crocheted design. More dinner table-enhancing must-haves are available in her shop, too, from matching placemats to a versatile fabric bread basket.