This creative initiative helps female Emirati artisans earn money for their craft

Based in Sharjah, Irthi is the region's leading crafts council
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This creative initiative helps female Emirati artisans earn money for their craft

The word empowerment gets thrown around a lot these days, often without merit.

But Irthi, the region’s leading crafts council is empowering female artisans in a very real way by helping them generate a proper income from their work. 

Based in Sharjah, its Bidwa Social Development Programme aims to provide Emirati women with the vocational training and market access they need to generate a sustainable income and achieve professional and social empowerment, through commercial collaborations. 

And this year, it has connected artisans with international designers from Spain, Italy, Japan, Palestine, Pakistan, the UK and the USA to form working relationships with a view to creating luxury products for an international market.

Ranging from Palestinian-landscape-inspired hand-blown glass vessels, to sculptural totem-like chair stacks, 78 exclusive luxury products as part of 12 collections in jewellery, furniture, home décor, perfume bottles, incense burners and more, were unveiled during the opening ceremony of London Design Fair 2019.

And every product carries the unique mark of dozens of Emirati women artisans and trainees, who have worked hand-in-hand with the international designers to create truly unique items.

Irthi also seeks to preserve traditional Emirati crafts and develop the next generation of artisans and designers by providing them with training and mentorship.

The 60-plus artisans who are enrolled in the Bidwa programme practise traditional handicrafts such as Talli (hand-braiding), Safeefah (palm-frond weaving) and embroidery, and new trainees joining the programme are currently undergoing short craft courses and training to build upon their capabilities and equip them with new skills to help them in the future.

Photos: Supplied