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Arzu builds a foundation of hope for women and their families by supporting the creation of heirloom quality, naturally-dyed rugs. Revenue generated through the rug sales provides Afghan women with a sustainable solution to their hardships. Every dollar spent on an Arzu rug is an investment in their future.

In a country with the world’s lowest female literacy rate and second-highest maternal mortality rate, Arzu helps weavers and their families break the cycle of poverty by providing them access to steady income, education and health care. Meeting these three interdependent needs creates a foundation of stability for the women, who can then assist their families and participate more fully in their communities. We believe that income generation and support for social values enhance and reinforce each other.


Arzu, meaning hope in Dari, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that provides sustainable income to Afghan women by sourcing and selling the rugs they weave. Arzu helps weavers and their families break the cycle of poverty by providing them above market compensation and access to education and health care.

An Arzu rug is an investment in hope.


In 2003, Arzu Founder and President Connie K. Duckworth made her first trip to Afghanistan. During her visit, she was inspired by the people she met and motivated to help improve their lives. Upon her return, she formulated a plan and, with much support, launched Arzu in 2004, offering hope to the people and country, which she says "took a piece of my heart."


The Social Contract: Core to the Arzu approach is our social contract with weaver families, in which we agree to pay weavers market rate for their weaving, plus an additional 50 percent incentive bonus. In return for the higher wage, families must agree to send all of their children under the age of fifteen to school full-time as well as have women in the household attend literacy classes.

Economic Empowerment: Arzu works with rural Afghan women to provide a sense of achievement through independent economic empowerment. Arzu pays 150% wages to women weavers in the program. The bonus money allows the women to purchase new clothing, shoes and gifts for their children in addition to contributing their income to the basic household fund. Arzu’s system of checks and balances verifies that each weaver receives her bonus.

Education: Arzu believes in the power of education. The ability to read and write gives the women of Afghanistan an opportunity to script a better future for themselves and their families. Arzu has been an effective mobilizer, helping many families enroll their children in school. Arzu monitors class attendance and performance through surprise visits to the school.

Health Care: Arzu serves as the critical link between remote weaver villages and existing health care services. The average Afghan woman has eight pregnancies. Each pregnancy is a life-threatening event in rural Afghanistan, where over 90 percent of babies are delivered with no skilled assistance. Arzu provides transportation in four-wheel drive vehicles across rugged, often roadless terrain for pre-natal and post-natal check-ups, immunizations for children and emergency care for deliveries and sick children.


Today, Arzu employs more than 700 weavers from 238 households in nine rural villages. There are approximately 2,050 people currently in the Arzu program. Roughly 20 percent of Arzu’s weavers are vulnerable widows, an Arzu priority group.

Economic Empowerment:
• In 2006, Arzu made 526 bonus payments to weaver families.
• Bonus earnings are used most commonly for food, clothing, heat and to pay down debts incurred by illnesses, funerals or weddings.

• Arzu provides access to literacy and fast track classes for over 300 women and girls.
• An average of two mature females in 95 percent of families in the program attends literacy classes.
• Arzu raised private funds to grant $25,000 for school construction, desks and supplies in the North. The school opened in February 2006.

Health Care:
• Arzu accompanied over 50 pregnant women and more than 45 newborns to clinics for check-ups, immunizations and emergency care.
• 632 members of our weaver families were given eye exams, with many receiving eyeglasses and/or treatment for diseases of the eye for the first time.


Connie K. Duckworth serves pro bono as President and Chairman of the Board of Arzu, Inc. She is an active member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, a bi-partisan public/private partnership established by Presidents Bush and Karzai in 2002. In addition, she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations initiative on women and foreign policy.

A retired Partner and Managing Director of Goldman, Sachs & Co., Ms. Duckworth was named the first woman sales and trading partner in the firm’s history during her 20 years at the company. Her book, a primer on how to start a business entitled The Old Girls Network: Insider Advice for Women Building Businesses in a Man’s World (Basic Books 2003), was published in September 2003.

Ms. Duckworth is the Chairman of the Board of Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, the first woman to hold this position. She sits on the Board of Trustees of Northwestern Mutual, the Boards of Directors of Smurfit Stone Container Corporation, Frank Russell Company and DNP Select Income Fund and the Board of Overseers of the Wharton School. She is a past Chair of the Committee of 200, the organization of leading women entrepreneurs and corporate business executives in the U.S. She holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from the University of Texas.


Afghanistan, United States


Illinois, New York


541 N. Fairbanks Court

Suite 1700

Chicago, IL 60611

Phone: (312) 321-8663

EIN: 84-1636816

A Gift Card

Basic Needs

Countries and Regions



Promote Literacy

School supplies

Your gift will provide school supplies for 10 children for one year. This generous donation will assist Arzu in encouraging education throughout Afghanistan and in making sure that all children of registered weavers attend school and have the proper supplies for their classes.


Support Clean Water

Clay water pot

Purchasing a clay water pot for Arzu's water filtration system ensures the ongoing effort to provide clean water to rural communities in Afghanistan. This simple donation will allow women and their families clean water for drinking and cooking - promoting Arzu's commitment to improve the health of individuals in Afghanistan.


Buy A Loom

Help an Afghan weaver

Your donation buys a quality rug loom for a weaver whose earnings are the sole source of income for her family. By providing a loom for a weaver, you support sustainable income for women in Afghanistan - many of whom have become widows during the war and are responsible for single-handedly supporting the entire family.