Monday, 25 January 2016

Women in Hebron - empowering women in West Bank

The distressing situation in Hebron has led to many women taking charge and becoming the breadwinners in the family.

Women in Hebron, a handicraft cooperative based in Old City of Hebron is a prime example of this. 

Founded in 2005 the cooperative also shows, that while Hebron is one of the most conservative cities in the West Bank, it's women are far from being oppressed victims. 

One slogan that is proudly displayed across the products is "men can do something, women can do anything". 

Oh, you Taylor Swifts of the world. Have you got a thing or two to learn about the real girl power...

These are the women behind the cooperative: sisters Leila and Nawal. Ladies of serious substance (and the best source of gossip in the Old City). Their tiny shop functions as an informal meeting point for the many internationals and NGO representatives and volunteers in the city.

It had been five years since we'd last seen, but the moment I walk in, Leila gives me a warm hug. Teapot arrives as if no time has passed and next thing I know, I have plans for the following day, too. "You busy? What time are you free? have you already been to Idna? You have to go to Idna! I'll ring the girls and have them make you maqloobe!"

Oh, yeah - Leila also makes probably the best maqloobe in the whole of West Bank. More on that in the next blog post!

The business has had some grants from consulates operating in West Bank, but making ends meet is a continuous struggle. Especially these days. But these ladies are not ready to give up  - that's just not a word that features in their vocabulary.

Leila is a cheerful example of this. She decided to learn English to better communicate with the internationals. Her husband wasn't keen on the idea to say the least and ripped up her text books. She just taped the ages back together and soldiered on. These days the husband still grunts but there's a look in his eyes that tells he, too, is secretly proud of his missus. 

Nawal tours the world sharing the story behind them and their products: one of hope and persistance. 

One of the classics is the traditional Palestinian dress with its delicate hand-made embroidery. Typically the colour of the embroider has told which part of West Bank the wearer hails from. Red embroidery is typical for Ramallah region, that colourful one for Hebron. 

A couple of years ago Nawal opened a workshop and community centre in the village of Idna, about 20 minutes from Hebron,  where they make these beautiful, thick wool rugs.

The colours of the Palestinian flag are a recurring theme.

The cooperative employs about 5 women full-time and more than hundred part-time. 

They even have a nursery to make sure that nothing stands in the way of these women following their dream. 

Elaborate embroidery decorates their gorgeous products; from cushion covers to place mats and Iphone and tablet cases. 

They're always coming up with new additions to their line and even keffiyef, the traditional Palestinian scarf gets a makeover in their hands. 

Psssst. In case you can't get to Hebron, they also have an online shop! 




Caring is sharing!

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