By Maud Swanborough
A geography student from Durham University, joins the Generous Ape team
Sabbara is a social enterprise that puts female economic freedom at the forefront of its design. From cushions to clutches, Sabbara – meaning a strong, resilient, patient woman in Arabic, sells a range of embroidered handcrafts all sustainably made by over 80 skillful Syrian female artisans. Offering a blend of beautiful style, quality and intricately detailed design, the proceeds of Sabbara’s products contribute to paying the artisans’ wages, education and therapy. Founders Itab Azzam and Manya Elendary wanted to address Syria’s high unemployment rate, and were inspired by the most vulnerable mothers who had been displaced or widowed by war, often losing their husbands as their main income earners. Occurring across both Syria and Lebanon, Sabbara’s knitting clubs and the sales of handcrafts has created employment. The regular, fair pay cheques ensure the respect artisans deserve is delivered, freeing them of previous financial constraints and setting them in good stead for economic independence. Through creating a community of female artisans, this has forged relationships and created a safe environment filled with hopes of a better future.
Challenging the traditional social norm where Syrian women are prohibited from receiving education, Sabbara provides educational funding for women that require basic skills to increase their employment potential. From literary classes to computer skill training, both girls and women of all ages are provided with education. Not only does this lift current populations out of the vicious cycle of poverty, but also future generations, as expertise is passed down to younger females. These actions today will ultimately benefit the future generations of tomorrow. Sabbara’s role in these communities have also brought immense psychological benefits. In collaboration with several NGOs, Sabarra runs art and theatre workshops as a form of therapy and healing for Syrian women who have experienced the traumas of civil war, including the loss of their husbands through conflict.
‘Your purchase gives hope, dignity and freedom to Syrian women’.
Action for gender equality is equally prominent in Gone Rural, a local women’s empowerment project which originated in the remotest areas of Eswatini, Swaziland. Inspired by 780 rural women weavers, founder Jenny Thorne created Gone Rural in the 1970s, which now runs across 13 groups and 52 communities in Eswatini. Selling a range of handwoven products expertly crafted by rural businesswomen, Gone Rural also funds community development projects aiming to amplify the weaver’s empowerment further and certify their prosperity as breadwinners.
Since 2009, leaders of artisan groups have united to create a Rural Artisan Board. This means the needs and interests of artisans are at the heart of every decision making process, ensuring no voice is left unheard. This ensures that fair trade and a sustainable income is guaranteed to be literally woven into each handmade product, enabling families and communities to overcome the challenges associated with rural living and giving them the integrity they rightfully deserve. Similar to Sabbara, many of the skills learnt are passed down from mother to daughter, creating long term multi-generational change.
By choosing to challenge the unequal gender norms and advocating for local women’s rights, these brands are fostering change that will benefit hundreds of women from the ground up and build a more equal and just world.
Click here to learn more about Gone Rural