Embroidery is Amal’s key to a better future in Gaza
Women's empowerment program in Beit Hanoun offers opportunities
Amal grew up in the poverty-stricken community of Beit Hanoun, Gaza. “I never had a chance to learn about my hidden talents,” she says.
Amal was lucky to finish her high school education, despite her family’s poverty. She always wanted to pursue a higher degree. She recalls her family had nothing: “very little money and crumbs of bread to feed a large family.” Her entire future appeared to revolve around getting married and raising a family.
"It is a great responsibility to care for children," she sighs. The mother of four struggled to offer a safe and quiet life for her children.
She grew up watching her mother and grandmother sewing dresses and making thobes (Palestinian traditional dresses). She never thought of it as a trade or a business. “It always just seemed like an intuitive skill we are all born with here. But then, I started learning new patterns, mixing colors and imitating different shapes,” she says. “My skills have grown over the years and so has my passion to dive into searching for more stitches.”
Amal now finds herself sitting at home, in her makeshift house, putting her best into each stitch. By participating in Anera’s women’s empowerment project, using the threads and other materials she now has for her creations, she has let her undiscovered skills blossom. She grows more confident by the day.
“Small details differentiate my work from the others,” says Amal. “My style stands out when I add beads or little sparkles, for instance."
Amal heard about the women’s empowerment program offered by Anera from the Cooperative Society for Saving and Lending. She joined a group of 60 women in Beit Hanoun who are working to earn an income in Gaza’s constricted economy.
Whenever she hears about an art exhibition in Gaza, Amal takes her products and sells them. She has expanded her network of clients to beyond Beit Hanoun. Amal is now making up to $110 (400 NIS) per month, and she is now able to buy more raw materials.
The project has helped Amal to find more satisfaction in life.
"I’m not ashamed to say that my husband and I used to have a lot of disagreements over trivial things. Our life has changed now, after I discovered this new interest.
“For women in conservative communities, it can be hard to move around freely, unless there is a very compelling reason. Fortunately, I am supported by a man who believes his wife's talent is indispensable. When women are seen to be going out for a good reason, like marketing their handmade products, the community should show respect. And that’s what we all need.”
In this era of isolation during COVID-19, Amal is focused on stitching and crafting beautiful new designs. “All we can do is hope the situation will get better soon.”