CONNIE K. DUCKWORTH
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Connie Duckworth founded ARZU, Inc. in 2004 and serves pro bono as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. She is a retired Partner and Managing Director of Goldman, Sachs, & Co., where she was named the first woman sales and trading partner in the firm’s history during her 20 year career. Ms. Duckworth is currently a Trustee of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and a Director of Russell Investment Group and Steelcase Inc. In her philanthropic work, Ms. Duckworth serves on the boards of The Wharton School in Philadelphia, the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago and NorthShore University HealthSystem, in Evanston, Illinois, where she was the first woman to be named Chairman of the Board. She is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, a public/private partnership aligned with the U.S. State Department and past Chair of the Committee of 200, the organization of leading women entrepreneurs and corporate business executives in the U.S. She also co-authored a primer on entrepreneurship entitled The Old Girls Network: Insider Advice for Women Building Businesses in a Man’s World (Basic Books 2003). The recipient of numerous awards for leadership, advocacy, social impact, innovation and global presence, Ms. Duckworth received the 2012 UNICEF Chicago Humanitarian Award and was honored as the 2012 Woman Extraordinaire by the Chicago International Women Associates. In 2011, she was awarded the Wharton School Dean’s Medal, the school’s highest honor and was named a 2008 Skoll Foundation honoree for Social Entrepreneurship. She holds an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from the University of Texas.
Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer
Linda Leikness serves as the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer for ARZU, Inc. Prior to joining ARZU Linda served as Chief Operations Officer and/or Chief Financial Officer at various entrepreneurial companies involved in a wide variety of businesses including drug development, biotechnology and children’s books and toys, seeing several of those companies through a successful acquisition by publicly held companies. Linda is a licensed Certified Public Accountant and Certified Global Management Accountant and holds a B.A. degree in Business from the University of Wisconsin.
Vice President, Creative & Technical Director
Angela Attento is responsible for all new product design and development. Prior to joining ARZU, Inc. in 2008, Angela was the Art Director at Odegard, developing new designs, advising on finishing and quality control, and directing all graphic design and print production of materials. She was also actively involved in assisting RugMark in its goal of ending illegal child labor. Previously, she worked for a number of years in advertising at Crispin Porter and Bogusky, starting off as an intern in the collateral division, then as a full-time Production Assistant and finally as the Assistant to the Chairman. Angela attended Savannah College of Art and Design, where she studied Fibers and Sculpture.
Abdul Aziz Omar
Deputy Country Director
Abdul Aziz Omar joined ARZU in 2005 as a monitor and reporter in Andkhoi Province. Aziz was quickly promoted to Regional Director where he oversw all operations in the region. After ARZU was forced to end its programs in Adkhoi due to increasing security risks and concerns, Aziz joined our staff in Kabul as the Deputy Country Director. Born in Andkhoi in 1983, Aziz and his family experienced hardship and devastation during the Civil War. After Aziz’s father was blacklisted, Aziz took on the financial responsibility for his family while also attending from Andkhoi Teacher Training College, where he graduated with a degree in English Literature. As one of ARZU’s first employees, Aziz has helped build and define ARZU as one of the premier organizations operating in Afghanistan. Aziz’s commitment to women’s empowerment and his exceptional knowledge of rug design and production seamlessly support the many facets of ARZU’s operations.
Human Resources and Finance Director
Mustafa Nezrabi joined ARZU in 2014. He was born in the Logar Province and currently attends Kardan University in Kabul. While in college, Mustafa started working with Future Generation, a USAID-funded organization focused on the empowerment of uneducated women in Ghazni Province. After this project ended, Mustafa worked as a Database Administrator for VEKTI, an NGO that supports the Afghan Ministry of Economy complete ANP IDs and drug tests in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. Directly prior to joining ARZU. Mustafa worked as the Human Resources Officer with Afghan Resources Group (ARG), a service company that provides logistical support to infrastructure, development and legal organizations. Mustafa is a volunteer at a charity organization called Jahan (Join and help Afghanistan Now) where he encourages families to send their children to school by supporting them with financial assistance and guidance. Mustafa believes “that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest in life, and bring changes in character, personality and morality.”
Our all-local staff makes trusted communication and dialogue possible. Since Afghanistan is a gender-segregated society, with differing cultural and tribal customs depending on region and ethnic group, we select a Regional Director and teams of monitors (both men and women) from the two provinces in which we work: Bamyan and Faryab. There are three monitoring functions: rug production, health and education. Our namayendas (rug monitors) provide quality feedback and oversight on the weaving process by visiting our weavers in their homes. ARZU, Inc. provides weavers with top quality materials at no charge, including graphs and natural vegetable-dyed wool. Monitors deliver these materials at the outset and inspect each rug at least three times during production to identify and rectify any problems with the weaving quality and to help weavers continually improve their skills. Our health and education monitors visit our weaver families weekly to ensure the children of the household are attending school regularly and that the family is receiving treatment for any illness or injury. ARZU, Inc. monitors also provide oversight to ensure that child labor is not employed on ARZU, Inc. rugs and to track and witness all payments to weavers for their work.