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Power of Women NY Honoree: Claire Danes

Claire Danes has been involved with Afghan Hands, which supports disenfranchised Afghan women, for years, and her interest in the lives of Afghan women started when she was still young.

“My parents are artists, and one of our friends spent the 1980s going to Afghanistan and taking photographs of the women there,” she says. “I’ve been affected by these images my whole life.”

Founded in 2009, Afghan Hands puts Afghani widows to work embroidering scarves, pillows and other goods; money raised from the sale of the items pays for classes and seminars the women can take to help build financial and emotional independence.

“Widows are basically beholden to their in-laws, and after the death of their husbands they’re seen as a burden,” says Danes. “They have these wonderful embroidery skills, and in exchange for that work they can learn how to read and do math, and hopefully in the process have a greater means to exist in the world.”

Danes learned of the organization from her makeup artist — and Afghan Hands founder — Matin Maulawizada, and was immediately taken by both its purpose … and its products. “I started collecting the scarves pretty aggressively,” she admits. “I embroider myself, and I’m passionate about every facet of this project.”

Unfortunately, as yet Danes can’t travel to Afghanistan to help with on-the-ground efforts, as it’s too dangerous. “I’m eager to do more, but for obvious reasons I can’t,” she says. “It’s going to happen, though — it’s just a matter of time.”

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