EFI, a UN program, promotes women entrepreneurship in isolated parts of Afghanistan, despite Talibans threats. Ratti, an Italian company leader in the production of fabrics, takes part to it, helping craftwomen with their silk production businesses.

Supporting small craft businesses, often led by women and located in the poorest areas of the world, providing them with training and putting them in contact with international fashion brands: this is the purpose of the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI). Launched in 2009 by the International Trade Center, a joint organization of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, EFI aims to create jobs in marginalized communities, promoting the preservation of traditional production techniques and the development of local talent, under the slogan “no charity, just work”.  

A woman involved in EFI and Ratti's project in Afghanistan
A woman involved in EFI and Ratti’s project in Afghanistan

The project is linked to the UN 2030 Agenda, a plan of action that includes 17 sustainable development goals relating to the environmental, economic, social and institutional spheres to be achieved by 2030.

In this sense, EFI contributes to the promotion of 8 of these objectives, with particular attention to women empowerment, the promotion of decent working conditions and quality education. EFI aims at allowing the craftswomen and designers involved in the program to access the international market, creating relationships with international brands based on professional but also human growth. Over time, EFI has expanded to countries such as Burkina FasoHaiti, Mali and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan 3,500 women received training in the production of silk as well as some silkworms to start their own business. 

Among the fashion brands selected by EFI is Ratti, an Italian company founded in 1945 and now global leader in the creation, production and distribution of fabrics. Ratti, based in the northerner city of Como, is known for its attention to local realities.

A silk scarf produced by Ratti in Afghanistan
A silk scarf produced by Ratti in Afghanistan

With EFI, Ratti launched “The Peace Scarf” program in Afghanistan, with the aim of supporting the economic independence of local artisans through the production of silk. Thanks to Ratti, 30 Afghan women received high-level training and assistance, which allowed them to improve production processes and the quality of their silk.  

Ferruccio Pinotti, a journalist at Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, was the first to write about this beautiful story of cooperation. Pinotti writes “in a dramatic moment such as that of the affirmation of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, an Italian company supports Afghan women, trying to ensure that they can continue to work and preserve their dignity, while contributing to the livelihood of families severely affected by the war. ” 

Fabrizio Goggi, communications manager at Ratti, explains to Pinotti that The Peace Scarf project wants to “give life to a silk product that, thanks to Ratti’s technical experience and the skilful mastery of its craftsmen, acquires value, becoming unique in beauty and style. A combination of Afghan artisan savoir-faire and Ratti’s creative talent creates a classic product interpreted in a contemporary way.” 

A woman involved in EFI and Ratti's project in Afghanistan

Despite the difficult conditions on the ground in Afghanistan, EFI and the companies it cooperates with are working to remain in the country. The next step is the spring of 2022, when the new silkworm production will start. As explained by Stefano Cipriani, the UN official in charge of EFI in Afghanistan, silk production integrates well with the cultivation of saffron, a fundamental component of the local agricultural economy. 

If hope for a better future for Afghanistan, a future in which rights and opportunities are guaranteed for all, is not complelety lost, part of the credit also goes to an Italian company, that proves through its actions how getting involved and sharing know-how and experience can make a difference in people’s lives