Women's Empowerment and Tatreez in Beit Hanoun, Gaza
“This training course can strengthen the role of women economically and socially in our society." - Ma'azouza, handicraft instructor.
Embroidery Trainings Provide a Path to Income for Women
On a recent morning in Beit Hanoun, a town in northern Gaza, a group of 15 women have already seen their children off for the school day and have just arrived at a local community space for an embroidery class conducted by Anera.
Ibtisam Salem, chair of the Cooperation Society for Saving and Lending, which is hosting the course, says that the project serves vulnerable women by empowering them economically and socially, helping them to participate in decision-making within their families and in wider society.
"I'm living my dream because I have the opportunity to improve our society and offer opportunities to women," Salem says.
The course is part of the Women Can program that Anera is beginning to implement in Beit Hanoun, following the construction of an upper floor at the Society’s building to host training courses. The embroidery classes are one of several that Anera provides to promote women’s empowerment in Beit Hanoun.
Amal, 29, is one of the trainees in the embroidery training course. Her mother began teaching her embroidery when she was young and she always enjoyed it. Today Amal is a mother of four. Her 10-year-old daughter, Rahaf, recently asked her mom to begin teaching her the traditional Palestinian craft, known as tatreez. In the evenings, after Rahaf finishes her studies, Amal teaches her the stitching, just as her mother had done with her. “I forget all my worries when we are together working on embroidered pieces," Amal says.
Amal is the primary provider for her family. Her husband has osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, and cannot work.
"What we can get from charity is not enough to live a decent life and provide for my children," Amal says. She looked for ways to earn money but found little until she heard about Anera's Women Can project. Naturally, she applied to the embroidery course.
At the training, students spend more than five hours every day learning embroidery. Amal’s enthusiasm for the craft is boundless. "I wish I could stay longer and learn more," she says.
Amal is using the class to hone her skills and develop her own unique embroidery style. After she completes the course, she plans to begin selling the tatreez she makes so that she can provide for her family. “I will support my children to continue their studies and follow their dreams," Amal vows.
Samah, 40, is another dedicated student in the class. She is divorced, and cares for her seven children. Three of her kids have diabetes. Money is a constant worry. "I must earn money to pay for my kids’ school fees and medical bills," Samah says.
After her divorce, Samah began making tatreez at home to earn some money. "I chose embroidery because it was already a hobby of mine,” she says. “Now it is both a source of pleasure and work." However, she still wanted to improve her skills to make her crafts more marketable and believes this training course will be just what she needs.
"Although I have been selling embroidery for over five years, this class has taught me new things," Samah says.
Samah plans to launch her own embroidery project and help other women by bringing them on to work with her and pass along to them what she has learned. She hopes to eventually enter her work into national and international exhibitions.
A Fusion of Old and New Designs
The creative methods and beautiful designs that Amal and Samah are learning are taught by Ma’azouza El Sabeh. El Sabeh has been a handicraft instructor since 2010. She studied fashion design before finding her passion in Palestinian embroidery.
"I like teaching embroidery. I try to mix our traditional designs with the new fashion trends," El Sabeh says. She believes that incorporate new designs enhances the craft and commands a higher sale price.
She is also motivated by the power of the classes to make a difference. “This training course can strengthen the role of women economically and socially in our society."
Building a Space for Women’s Training Courses in Northern Gaza
Anera recently completed construction of the new floor on the Cooperation Society for Saving and Lending building, providing a space for the training courses to be conducted.