The Idna Cooperative Association for Embroidery and Handicrafts also called "Women in Hebron" cooperative is a nonprofit fair trade community center located in Idna, a city on the southwest of Hebron in the West Bank, Palestine. The cooperative's aim is to economically empower women and give the chance and tools to educate them and generate additional income for their household. Developing traditional Palestinian embroidery is a way of gaining economic independence, as well as an act of resistance and community-strengthening honoring the role of women in Palestinian society. It’s considered as a commitment to preserving Palestinian culture and heritage and also increasing awareness abroad and keeping resistance alive. Nawal Slemiah the founder and director not only created a field of economic activity but also supports women by talking about their different problems and providing various solutions they may need.
To the association belongs 150 women, among them there are leaders who are picking up fabrics from the cooperative's office in Idhna, which they later distribute between family and neighbors, coordinating their work. This system gives the opportunity to combine work with family obligations and allows the co-operation of women from the surrounding eight cities and villages. They usually work 2–3 hours a day. Although women's work brings tangible benefits to the family, some of them are forced to work only when their partner is not at home. Their husbands often explicitly forbid this job, because it violates the conservative gender roles in a male-dominate culture. Nawal and Laila don’t fit into the traditional socially designed model of women’s livesin Muslim countries. "We're still struggling to free ourselves from oppressive culture," says Nawal.
1. Laila opens a cooperative shop in the old town in Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank. At the beginning of 2005 when the cooperative set up, the embroidered items have been sold from a simple suitcase which one year after turned into a small table set in the old town's market. Currently, they have a permanent big shop. The first years were not easy only because of the occupation, but also because of a man harassing Nawal by asking for a commission on the sales.
They just couldn't accept her as a woman doing business.
2. The shop with embroidery is the only women-owned spot in the entire old market. The shop is situated in the H2 sector, which is under Israeli control (H1 is controlled by the Palestinian Authority) following the 1995 Oslo Agreement and the 1997 Hebron Agreement. Above the old town, there is a fence. It often happens that the settlers throw eggs, bottles or rocks as the daily acts of aggression agains Palestinians. In H2 there are now 500-800 illegal Isreali settlers and 20 checkpoints making daily life very difficult.
3. Al-Shuhada Street called qhost town. The vast area of the market in H2 is totally deserted. now 500-800 illegal Isreali settlers and 20 checkpoints making daily life very difficult. Palestinians have been forced to close their shops after the 1994 massacre of 27 Muslims in the Ibrahimi Mosque by Baruch Goldstein. Back that event the market used to be a vibrant, bustling place, a principal commercial thoroughfare.
This has an affect the general sale of products and the economic situation of many Palestinian families.
4. Laila Hasan After two years of working together with her sister Nawal, Laila learned
English well enough to communicate with tourists and volunteers.She was
ableto become an independent seller. As a small child, Lila had a dream to
become an English teacher.
Now she's a mother of 6 kids. Her husband
can't work since he broke his back while working on Isreali construction
That makes Laila responsible for taking care of the whole household
5. Handcrafted traditional dresses with embroidery. Until the 1940s, traditional Palestinian costumes reflected a woman's economic and marital status and the town or district of her origin. This information was readable from fabric, colors, cuts and
embroidered motifs. Nowadays embroidery can be seen on non-clothing items such as purses, bags, pillowcases, accessories, and carpets.
6. Community center in the Idna village. Nawal Slemiah the Founder and chief of Women in Hebron cooperative for years tried to become economically independent
by producing and selling the embroidery. With time she decided to register
the organization, which gave her the opportunity to apply
for international support and grants. By existing financial programs the organization was able to invest in sewing machines,
as well as sewing
and carpeting training for members.
7. Lina and her daughters. Lina, a mother of 3 years old Shaza and 11 years old Nada works full time. She runs a house and raises her daughters alone.
Her husband is serving a sentence in an Israeli prison. Before she worked in an electrical factory.
8. Lina and Um Sallam at the sewing machines. Lina and Um Sallam are the only two members working full time at the sewing machines. All the other women are making embroidery. It’s hard for the association to find members, who are able to
work permanently for full time. It happens often that women who are hired and getting married, don’t have their husband’s permission for work and have to quit.
9. Um Sallam. Um Sallam has been sewing for 20 years. As a child, she observed her mother at work and was trying out the sewing machine while her mother was on break. For many years, she used to sewed at
home for her family and neighbors. Now she is divorced and her children already have their own families. After her daily work, she returns home and does embroidery on her own. By the money she
has earned, she supported her adult children, by buying a house and finishing it.
10. Women presenting Nawal their work and new patterns. Finished embroidery is viewed on spot by Nawal who pays a certain amount of money (from 20 to 150 shekels)
for the work depending on the size, complexity of the pattern and quality.
Nawal orders specific designs depending
on demands and coordinates the whole process.
12. Fatma embroidering at her house. A map of independent Palestine will be created on this piece of fabric. The modern patterns are designed by chosen members.
The association also cooperates with designers from
13. Office work in the living room Hazal, the Turkish academic conducts 20 interviews with women. These interviews are necessary to receive a Fair Trade certificate.
It is not easy for a small organization and costs a lot of
money. The certificate helps to increase the sales range.
Besides the stationary shop, the cooperative sells the products online and by international craft trades.
14. Lunch preparations Cooperative is also a safe space for open discussions, being together while having a cup of strong, sweet mind tea or lunch.
Um Sallam prepares her favorite fatayer – middle eastern pie stuffed with
15. Nawal is sinking in papers closing the year and putting documents in order. Nawal has always been an activist, who truly believed in her own independence and making the women's situation better.
She is the second woman from her family's village Arsamitt who got a
higher education degree. With other women's organizations, visited women in their homes and disseminated elementary knowledge on their rights, on prevention, and health taught them how
and write. She has visited women whose husbands were in prison. Nawal helped them by organizing childcare.
She also founded a network of kindergartens located in smaller towns around Hebron.
She also founded her own.