15 kilometers north of Erbil in the Baharka refugee camp, Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation initiated a sewing project with 20 refugee women eager to learn new skills. Since the conflict began in the Middle East, more than two million Syrian refugees and Iraqi IDPs have sought the security and stability of Kurdistan, living in 50 camps across Erbil, Duhok and Sulaimaniyah provinces.
The six western women, 4 from the UK (Theresa, Carla, Paula, Adele) and 2 from USA (Maria and Homa), sewing enthusiasts who want to pass on the love and purpose of sewing and creating, envisioned using fabric obtained from used tents at large music and other festivals held throughout Europe and upcycling them by training refugee women to create new products from the material. These newly created products would be taken and sold through online platforms, craft markets, ethical products platforms, and at other festivals throughout Europe and the process would continue allowing refugee women an outlet for expression, an ability to create products that add income to their meager existence and the ability to showcase their talents.
Figure 1. Carla from the UK teaches the refugee women in the Baharka camp how to sew a bag using Kurdish traditional handmade fabric; Jajim!
Often the perception by Western society is that of suppressed Middle Eastern women who have no say in what they do or how they do it, here the opportunity exists to help refugee women enhance their daily life and demonstrate to the West that women in the Middle East can and do have choices. Learning to sew and create saleable products in a fair trade environment eases boredom from the refugee existence and provides something to look forward to thereby enhancing a positive and even futuristic outlook on life.
Figure 2. Theresa from the UK shows the first bag made by Sayneb, who lives in the camp of Baharka, where 1 800 families live.
1800 families live in Baharka camp, among them Syrian refugees and Internally Displaced People from Mosul in Iraq. This project is a pilot and the next place of implementation is expected to be in Harsham Camp and as it rolls out it will eventually be offered in all 50 Kurdish refugee camps. This project is highly sustainable as products are created from used materials and resold in the western market at festivals throughout Europe which are attended by hundreds of thousands of individuals yearly.
Figure 3. The western women and refugees involved in the sewing project in the camp of Baharka in the province of Erbil in northern Iraq. First row from left to right: A refugee child, Theresa (UK), Carla (UK), Adele (UK), Maria (USA), Paula (UK), and a refugee women, and Homa (USA) first person in the second row from left.