About Us

Celebrating Ten Years!

Red Pashmina Inc. (formerly/a.k.a. Red Pashmina Campaign) aims to celebrate, empower and connect women who are making a difference  ̶  in Canada and around the world.

As a grassroots non-profit organization based in Peterborough, Ontario, proceeds raised from the sale of Red Pashminas and other fashion accessories support the education of women and girls in Afghanistan, in partnership with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan.ca). We also celebrate and encourage a diversity of women in our local community, while emphasizing their commonalities, connections and shared potential with women in Afghanistan and throughout the world.

Over the past 10 years, our Red Pashminas have been sold and worn around the world as a symbol of solidarity, and have raised thousands of dollars to help Afghan women and children obtain an education.

Funds raised have gone towards projects such as teacher training, community literacy classes and libraries, a free online library of educational resources, Gender Equity in Teacher Training, school starter kits, computer science curriculum development, and other grassroots initiatives.

In 2009, Maryam Monsef, then a Trent University student in Peterborough, joined a student campaign raising funds for widows in Afghanistan her home country and suggested selling red pashminas during the one-week campaign. But then, everyone kept asking for more of the scarves. Over lunch with her friend from high school and fellow Trent grad, Jessica Melnik, the Red Pashmina Campaign was born.

Its debut came at the 2010 Kinsmen Santa Clause Parade in Peterborough, where cards were distributed for residents to nominate women who they felt were making a difference in the community. This became the Women of Impact project.

During that first year, through partnerships with the YWCA, the New Canadians Centre, and PARN, Red Pashminas were sold at each of these non-profits to raise funds for a maternity clinic in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

Over the following months, more than 100 Women of Impact were recognized by the community. The Campaign also began its partnership with the Peterborough chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), a national non-profit group raising funds for the education of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The first annual Red Pashmina Walk, in partnership with CW4WAfghan, took place at the Silver Bean Cafe in the spring of 2011, and the City of Peterborough proclaimed the month of May as Afghan Women’s Month. Pashminas were sold at a number of downtown stores as well as the New Canadians Centre and YWCA, which provided a significant increase in sales and awareness of the Red Pashmina Campaign.

By 2012, the campaign raised a total of $6,700. During that year, Maryam represented the YWCA and the Red Pashmina Campaign on a panel at the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women in New York. At the third annual Red Pashmina Walk in 2013, $4,983 was raised. By the end of that year, the Campaign achieved its highest annual sales in scarves and donated $7,500 to CW4WAfghan’s Lantern Fund. Total funds raised for education and health initiatives for Afghan women and girls through Pashmina sales from the beginning of the campaign to the end of 2014 was $39,756.

In 2015, Maryam was elected as the federal Member of Parliament for the riding of Peterborough-Kawartha, and she and Jess handed the Campaign’s operations over to others within the organization. Around the same time, the Campaign became an incorporated entity, and its official name was changed to Red Pashmina Inc.

Since then, Red Pashmina has continued to raise funds for Afghan women and children. It was able to achieve a dream of Maryam’s and Jess’ by buying pashminas from a women’s co-op in Afghanistan, although this, of course, is no longer possible with the return to power of the Taliban.

At home, Red Pashmina Inc. has continued to recognise and celebrate the trials and triumphs of local women, along with their commonalities and connection with each other and the women of Afghanistan, through its Women of Impact project. A new initiative for women aged 30 and under has been added the Jessica Melnik Award for community-nominated Young Women of Impact. Red Pashmina Inc. also supports newcomer women and refugees through the Peterborough New Canadians Centre. It has made significant donations to the Centre since the beginning of the Red Pashmina Campaign and in 2015 donated $4,460 to the city’s Syrian refugee settlement effort.

2017 Young Women of Impact presentation

Education is a basic, universal human right. The people of Afghanistan demonstrated an intense demand for education, for both girls and boys, when the Taliban regime fell in 2001 and the ability to attend school again was within their grasp. Unfortunately, the right to education is once again under increased threat as the Taliban has regained power. The country has now endured over 40 years of war, with a current leadership whose past and present record has earned no trust in ensuring women’s rights and human welfare.

Much evidence has shown that access to education is one of the most strategically important pieces to the collective well-being of a society one that leaves an impact on present and future generations and contributes to the quest for lasting peace.

In our own small ways, Red Pashmina Inc. continues to work to inspire and enable women across their many diversities, while fostering both a local and global community of successful individuals.

Red Pashminas continue to be sold at various venues in Peterborough and online at this website.

Other days in our story…

  • 2011

    • 21 community-nominated Women of Impact participate in salon-style photo shoot and chat at Jessica’s studio
    • Stories of Women of Impact begin airing on CHEX TV and KRUZ FM’s My Peterborough series
    • Red Pashmina awarded Innovative Presentation Award at the Community Innovation Forum
    • Pashminas are sold on Canada Day at Del Crary Park and worn by members of Soroptimist International group during the parade
    • The first Dinner for the Cause is co-hosted by Red Pashmina Campaign and Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan
    • Participation in Santa Claus parade for second year
    • Requests for pashminas to be sent to Italy and Nova Scotia
  • 2012

  • 2013

    • A website is launched
    • Pashminas now sold at New Canadians Centre, YWCA, Tango, Joie de Vie, My Left Breast, Glow, Benevolent Stranger, Tia Star, Sympathy for the Rebel, and Pensieri Shoes
    • Red Pashmina Campaign wins the #PeterTweeter Award in the non-profit category
    • Red Pashmina Campaign asks the community to recognize Women of Impact again
    • Jessica curates a photo exhibit with the SPARK Photo Festival and partners with eight local photographers to tell the stories of ten Women of Impact. The show launches at Natas Cafe. The photo exhibit wins SPARK’s Award for generating the most online buzz
    • The Peterborough Poetry Collective host Red Pashmina’s first third-party fundraiser during International Women’s Month, with half of the proceeds supporting Red Pashmina
    • Red Pashmina and Maryam’s story featured in The Examiner
    • Trent University publishes an article on the Campaign
    • Public launch of fourth campaign at the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce
  • 2014

    • $3,000 raised at Red Pashmina Walk
    • $3,556 in total scarf sales
  • 2015

    • The Red Pashmina Campaign becomes incorporated under the name Red Pashmina Inc., with a volunteer board of directors
    • 5th annual Red Pashmina Walk is held
    • The inaugural Jessica Melnik Award for Young Woman of Impact is presented in December to Kemi Akapo and Natalie Guttormsson. This award is made possible thanks to the generous financial donation of Kyla Gutsche of Cosmetic Transformations
    • $4,460 is donated to Peterborough’s New Canadians Centre, earmarked for its Syrian Refugee Resettlement Program
    • New vendors include Fleming College Bookstore, Gallery in the Attic, and Happenstance bookstore in Lakefield
  • 2016

    • The 6th Red Pashmina Walk takes place in collaboration with the Peterborough chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, and a record $6,500 is raised
    • 55 scarves, hand-beaded by widows in Afghanistan, are purchased from the American non-profit organization Flying Scarfs
    • JOURNEY Magazine begins publishing online with the goal of profiling Red Pashmina Women of Impact and raising funds for Red Pashmina Inc.
    • Pashminas are sold at Peterborough’s International Women’s Day celebration
    • The Trent University Card Office and Hi-Ho Silver join as first-time vendors
    • Pashminas are purchased by individuals in Toronto, Port Hope, Calgary and Sydney, Australia, as well as the Oakville and Ottawa chapters of CW4WAfghan
  • 2017

    • The second Jessica Melnik Award for Young Woman of Impact is presented to Keara Lightning, Hanah McFarlane, and Sneha Wadhwani, and is again made possible thanks to the generous financial donation of Kyla Gutsche of Cosmetic Transformations. In conjunction with the Award ceremony and the 7th Red Pashmina Walk, the City of Peterborough proclaims Red Pashmina Week in April
  • 2018

    • The 8th annual Red Pashmina Walk takes place