Award winning artist and scholar Rachel Lehr’s academic training in linguistics and Persian, at Barnard College and University of Chicago, took her traveling across Central Asia during the 1970s-80s. While studying and living in Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan, Rachel developed a deep interest in the culture and arts of the region, and in the lives of its women and children. In 2000 Rachel reestablished contact with a community of Afghans then living as refugees in Pakistan. Following her first trip to Pakistan, Rachel helped found Rubia, and now serves as Rubia's Executive Director in the United States.
Rachel's work and research focuses on the domestic spheres occupied by rural Afghan women, capturing the rhythm and vitality of life in women's private spaces. Her scholarship has concentrated on dialects of Persian spoken in Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. She is currently completing her doctorate in linguistics at University of Chicago, writing a descriptive grammar of Pashai, an endangered language spoken in Darrai Nur, a rural mountain community in eastern Afghanistan.
Rubia is a long-term collaboration between two organizations; Rubia, Inc. a New Hampshire based non-profit organization, and RODA (Rubia Organization for the Development of Afghanistan) an Afghan registered NGO. Together the partners work to develop and implement innovative programs for women and children at the grass roots in Afghanistan.
Named for a red root used to dye yarn, Rubia is creating new traditions in textiles by translating the heritage and skills of Afghan women into sustainable livelihoods.
All aspects of the development and implementation of Rubia’s programs are rooted Afghanistan, using community members at all levels to help build the economy and capacity in their home region.