The Retroreflective Burqa project aims to empower burqa-wearing women by making carefully selected design changes and low-cost improvements to the traditional Afghan burqa, within the bounds of Sharia law, rendering the garment more versatile, functional, and fashionable.
The burqa is an outer-garment that the majority of Afghan women wear everyday, like a coat or jacket, which should be comfortable to wear, sensitive to the nuances of the everyday landscape and its environment, and culturally appropriate.
By re-thinking certain elements of the garment, I hope to empower Afghan women through carefully selected design choices and to enable these women to remain true to themselves and to their religious and cultural practices. To empower a person is to provide her the opportunity to make choices and decisions regarding her life. In the case of the Afghan burqa, there is currently only one design available to women â€” the iconic, monolithic burqa. The Retroreflective Burqa offers an innovative, alternative design choice to todayâ€™s burqa, thereby giving Afghan women the right to make a choice, express their preferences, and exercise decision-making about a garment that they wear every day.
I hope that this endeavor will also open a dialogue around the issue of womenâ€™s empowerment and design. Helping women to make more informed choices regarding the various aspects of their lives, including selecting alternative clothing designs, may lead them to make more informed choices in other aspects of their lives such as health care, education, housing, nutrition, and economic development.
Having lived one year in Afghanistan and worn a burqa a few times, I became interested in the form and function of the garment, and about Afghan women's experiences wearing the burqa, and wanted to explore innovations in this vein. I am deeply interested in how our fashion choices shape our identity. Ultimately, my belief in the rights of an individual's freedom of expression lies at the heart of this project.