HOBI aims to improve the health of mothers and newborns in Afghanistan. Indeed, it is one
of the countries where maternal and infant mortalities are highest in the world.
HOBI’s actions are multiple: provide health education, encourage women to give birth in a
health care centre, and prevent hypothermia of the newborn. To achieve this, women in
Kabul are invited to knit woolen clothes for babies and get remunerated for this. During
monthly meetings where they bring their work and receive new supplies, they meet
midwives to discuss health matters of their concern and to learn how to become change
agents to promote skilled care for pregnant women in their communities. Thus, the project
contributes to the promotion of human rights and to the social and economic
empowerment of women in Afghanistan.
Knitted items sent from Europe and other countries amplify these dynamics; they are
offered to young mothers when they leave the maternity in Kabul or elsewhere in the
country. The solidarity demonstrated by HOBI knitters and supporters in other countries, is
a strong motivating factor for these women as well as for the health care personnel in
Afghanistan. The HOBI project gives knitters all over the world a sense of purpose and the
opportunity to contribute to a more beautiful and just world, stitch after stitch.
In December 2010, between Christmas and New Year, Dr. Heli Bathija, a medical doctor originally from Finland but working since 1985 in the World Health Organization in Geneva, wanted to knit something and remembered having read about a Finnish woman who had started a project of knitting baby sweaters for Ethiopia.
After some searching on internet she discovered more details about Pirkko Tuppurainen who had come up with this idea, including the instructions for a baby sweater. Right away Heli knitted one sweater and was so delighted of the experience that she started to think how to create a project that would offer this lovely knitting experience to others.
In January 2011 she started a knitting group with her two WHO colleagues, Deborah Kioy from Kenya and Chrissie Chizulo from Malawi. As Heli had over the years been very much involved with Afghanistan and knew about the high maternal and infant mortality there she wanted that the baby sweaters be sent to warm up Afghan babies. Very quickly the knitting group expanded and new groups were formed both in Switzerland as well as in Finland.
Through Heli’s friends the story about the project went around the world and individuals got excited about the possibility to contribute meaningfully and started to knit sweaters for Afghan babies. On Nowrooz Day (Afghan New Year), 21 March 2012, a meeting was held to found HOBI as a non-profit organization in Switzerland.
Since March 2011 thousands of sweaters knitted by women in different countries have been delivered to mothers mostly in Maternity Hospitals in Kabul.
Since July 2013, HOBI collaborates with Omaid Afghanistan Humanitarian Services (OAHS), an Afghan NGO. OAHS, with funding from HOBI, has set up three knitting groups composed of ten women in Kabul area. They receive financial contribution for each sweater-hat set they knit. The same women also attend weekly health education sessions.
The sweater-hat sets are distributed through different maternity clinics. In these clinics OAHS has created picture walls, where pictures of babies with new sweaters are featured, in order to publicize the new project.