The Dressmaker Of Khair Khana tells the story of a real–life heroine, a young entrepreneur whose business created jobs and hope for women in her neighborhood during the Taliban years. The story behind the book grew out of a trip to Afghanistan in December 2005 when Tzemach Lemmon was assigned to write a story for The Financial Times and a case for Harvard Business School on Afghan women entrepreneurs. There she met Kamila Sidiqi, an unlikely breadwinner who had become an entrepreneur under the Taliban. Desperate to support her five brothers and sisters at home and banished from Kabul’s streets by the Taliban, she started a dressmaking business in her living room which offered work to 100 women in her neighborhood. Together these unsung heroines made the difference between survival and starvation for their families despite—and sometimes because of—the Taliban. The Dressmaker Of Khair Khana tells their story for the first time.


I touched down in Afghanistan for the first time on a raw winter morning in 2005

after two days of travel that took me from Boston to Dubai via London. My eyes stung and my head whirled. Too anxious to sleep, I had stayed up all night in Dubai’s Terminal II waiting for the Ariana flight to Kabul, scheduled to depart at 6:30 a.m. The Afghan airline urged travelers to arrive three hours early, which made finding a hotel feel somewhat beside the point. The predawn destinations on the big black travel board read like a guide to the world’s exotic hot spots: Karachi, Baghdad, Kandahar, Luanda. I realized I was the only woman in the airport, and, perched on a corner window ledge in the sparsely furnished Terminal II lobby waiting for my cell phone to charge, I tried hard to make myself invisible. But I could feel the puzzled stares of the men dressed in their loose–fitting shalwar kameez as they passed me by, pushing their rented…

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Teacher / Student Guide

The guide is aimed at the high school and college levels, and has the following learning outcomes:

  • Recognize and assess dangers of living under Taliban rule
  • Describe severe societal restrictions and punishments imposed by Taliban
  • Identify customs and traditions specific to Afghanistan
  • Compare living in a democracy with living in a society ruled by Taliban
  • Compare education opportunities living in Afghanistan and the U.S.
  • Analyze the role of family to reach common goals
  • Evaluate the impact of work ethic to accomplish goals
  • Appreciate the importance of global education
  • Appreciate the role of problem solving and creativity to overcome obstacles
  • Appreciate the opportunities available for American citizens

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Book Clubs

Question and Topics for Discussion

If your class is reading The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, let us know. If there are one or two questions Gayle can answer please contact us and we will work on it. Let us know your school, what grade level and the class for which you are reading The Dressmaker.

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Get Involved

Ever since The Dressmaker launched in March, 2011, people have asked what they can do to make a difference. My first answer: there is so much you can do, and even the smallest act makes a big difference.

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