Skoll Foundation



Skoll Awardee(s): Connie K. Duckworth
Award Year: 2008
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Economic Opportunity, Education, Health

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Connie made history as the first female sales and trading partner at Goldman Sachs. In 2002, she was asked to join the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, a bipartisan commission formed to insure Afghan women a voice in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Returning from a trip to Afghanistan in 2003, where she witnessed the indescribable hardships women faced, she outlined the vision for Arzu: a nonprofit that would help empower women and operate on a sustainable economic model. She provided seed capital for the first year of operations and currently oversees Arzu’s operations.


  • From a starting point of only 30 carpet weavers, ARZU has created more than 700 jobs and provided direct social benefits in Bamyan Province, Afghanistan. The ripple effect of ARZU’s work today impacts the lives of tens of thousands of Afghans.
  • In their ten years, they have seen the construction of two Women’s Community Centers, a community garden, a 5-acre park, the opening of 3 preschools and the building of 13 super adobe homes for refugees.
  • In 2013 alone, ARZU employed 257 rug weavers; sent 440 women to literacy classes; and created bright futures for 90 preschool children.
  • ARZU weavers earn 68% more  than the average Afghan. 55% own their own home.  70% own cellphones. 100% of ARZU weavers are literate when 90% of rural Afghan women are not. 20% of ARZU families have at least one child in University. To date, ARZU has not lost a single woman in childbirth, in a country with one of the highest maternal death rates.
  • Peace Cord®, a project of of ARZU STUDIO HOPE, announced the new Hope Red bracelet in Jan. 2013. Handmade with red braided parachute cord and a silver frosted button, Peace Cord® creates employment opportunities for women in Afghanistan using fair labor practices.
  • When ARZU first began its literacy classes, most attendees could not even sign their name. Seven years later, women have progressed at a remarkable rate. ARZU now teaches grades 1-4 and received approval from the Ministry of Education to include fifth grade, the only NGO in Bamyan to receive this approval.
  • In the summer of 2012, ARZU broke ground on the second Women’s Community Center, located in Shashpul, Bamyan. The Women’s Community Center is also the hub-site for ARZU’s Peace Cord® bracelet, employing 150 women.
  • It employs an all-Afghan staff of 51 in Afghanistan which monitors both social benefits programs and rug production.
  • In 2011, ARZU piloted the Superadobe construction method as an innovative solution to the housing crisis in Bamyan. ARZU identified this low-cost, low-tech method to create sustainable homes and buildings, as well as being the first organization to implement this building method in Afghanistan, with the pilot a success. Over five months, ARZU trained 26 male apprentices and built three different variations of Superadobe structures, ranging from 300 square feet to 1,200 square feet:  a simple one-room dome, a multi-room cloverleaf, and a spacious vault-style building. Given its success, Bamyan Provincial Governor Habiba Sarabi has asked ARZU to lead an important new project— constructing a housing project for displaced people in Bamyan using this method.
  • Its Web site,, features e-commerce capability to reinforce growing market awareness and sales.
  • Defined a multi-channel segmented market strategy and reconstructed the carpet supply chain, to accommodate essential custom and contract orders, leading to a 44% growth in sales.



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