The Red Pashmina Campaign

Maryam Monsef and Jess Melnik are building a global community

Jess Melnik and Maryam Monsef, founders of the Red Pashmina Campaign
Jess Melnik and Maryam Monsef, founders of the Red Pashmina Campaign

I recently spent an inspiring hour with two remarkable women. High school friends reunited by a need to be part of something bigger than themselves, forever connected by a cause greater than either of them ever imagined.

Maryam Monsef and Jess Melnik joined forces to raise money for women in Afghanistan by selling red pashminas.

They thought it would be a one-time event. In the first year alone, they raised $5,000. The Red Pashmina Campaign is now in its third year.

Driven by the support of the philanthropic generosity of our community, the Red Pashmina Campaign helps people from all walks of life make a lasting impact on the lives of women in Afghanistan and, to date, has sold over 1,500 scarves and raised over $15,000.
The Red Pashmina Campaign partners with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Proceeds from the sale of the red pashminas are directed to advancing education and educational opportunities for Afghan women and their families. This year, The Lantern Fund (a special campaign to raise revenue to sustain teacher training programs in Afghanistan) will benefit from these proceeds.

Available for sale at many Peterborough boutiques and businesses — including Tia Star, Le Joie de Vivre, Glow Maternity, Tango, Sympathy for the Rebel, My Left Breast, the New Canadians Centre and the YWCA — the red pashmina is not only the perfect accessory, but it is a symbol of the investment made in the education of women and girls in Afghanistan. It is a visual reminder of the support and solidarity that people in Peterborough have for Afghanistan, and it is also a symbol of the positive impact people have made in the lives of others and in our community.

But that’s only half of it! The other half of the Red Pashmina Campaign involves an unlikely link between the women in our community and the women in Afghanistan. In both countries, the stories are the same: the struggles with poverty, education, healthcare, equality, and self-esteem. The Red Pashmina Campaign’s aim is to bring these stories to life.

Knowing that women everywhere work tirelessly to enhance the quality of life for others in their community, the Red Pashmina Campaign strives to recognize and celebrate their trials, triumphs and accomplishments. By telling their stories, the Red Pashmina Campaign hopes to inspire and enable other women and thereby foster both a local and global community of empowered, successful women.

Do you know a woman making a difference here in our community? Do you know a woman, despite her own challenges or struggles, has been able to lift someone else up? Do you know an ordinary woman who without even knowing it; has performed an extraordinary act that has affected the life of someone else? Do you know a woman who is a role model for others not so fortunate? Nominate her as a “Woman of Impact!”

During the SPARK Photo Festival in Peterborough in April, ten “Women of Impact” will be chosen from hundreds of nominees and their truly inspiring stories will be told through visual essays. Five local photographers will capture these everyday heroes on film. The hope is that sharing these stories will enable other women to overcome and succeed both here and in Afghanistan.

At the end of the day, the goal of the Red Pashmina Campaign is quite simple: celebrate, enable, connect. Recognize women here and in Afghanistan, and create a global community of freedom, safety and respect.

For more information about the campaign and to nominate a “Woman of Impact”, visit

All photos by Andrea Dicks of AMD Photography at