In a workshop that is based close to the main market area in the city of Ajloun, a group of local women from different ages has been gathering together every day to get a professional training in embroidery using brand new machines that are dedicated to this art.
Three women in the place were busy working on hoop embroidery machine, while another one was listening carefully to Anwar Smadi - a consultant and trainer who works with “The Golden Touch” project- while he was explaining to her how to program the computerized embroidery machine correctly.
Amal Smadi, the head of Um Al Khashab Association in Ajloun, started “The Golden Touch” project that works to train local ladies on doing hoop embroidery after she noticed that such craft does not exist in Ajloun area.
Motivated by her own ambition to help local women, Amal discussed the idea with Anwar Smadi, who had worked in embroidery for more than 20 years, to apply for the project “Promoting Local Economic Development in Jordan” (PLEDJ) in Ajloun which is funded by the European Delegation to Jordan, after she heard about it through Ajloun’s municipality. Anwar got excited to join the project as a consultant and trainer, so Amal felt this was the right time to move forward.
“We have opened the first embroidery workshop in Ajloun that has a computerized embroidery machine thanks to the grant we received from the EU”. Anwar explains that they took this decision based on many factors, since the machine is much faster and more accurate; which would accelerate the production process. The machine helped to improve the first idea that Amal came up with instead of focusing on hoop embroidery practices only. PLEDJ program provided the necessary fund that was used mainly to buy similar machines which helped to set up the workshop quickly.
The attractive location of the workshop played a great role in selection as it is also placed in a trusted and accessible area, where the all-women can go in and out without fear.
Training for a New Career
The second step after the idea got accepted, was to join the training that PLEDJ had provided to participants. Amal and Anwar described this training to be “very helpful”. They were trained on how to create feasibility studies, tweak business plans, and track revenue process, more follow-ups were applied to the project later. Soft skills and marketing techniques were part of the training as well.
Right now, the project is less than one year old (it was established in June 2016), so most of the women available are trainees who are receiving training courses to get qualified. Later, the best shall be filtered out to be promoted into full-time employees who will in turn train other women. This way, the project will be more productive and sustainable.
Currently, 6-7 ladies are receiving training in professional embroidery, while four other ladies are trained to do sewing. They can now use their newly learned skills to work from home, as Anwar hinted out. “It is hard to imagine that these ladies had joined the project with zero knowledge in embroidery and now they are more than qualified to start doing work by themselves”, he adds.
Self Empowerment & Independence
According to Anwar, the “Golden Touch” center, allowed women to generate revenue, based on the increasing demand on the hoop embroidery artwork.
“I joined the project to help train local ladies, so that they will make more income. A lady can make up to 50 JD a week while working on two pieces only”. He adds.
Anwar explains that he was the only one to work with half automatic hoop embroidery machines in the governorate, and so he decided to share this knowledge with the trainees in the center. He is so proud of the women he trained himself who have now become capable of making their own income and helping their families financially.
An interesting story to tell is when the ladies at the center participated in one of the exhibitions in Amman, they felt very happy with their achievements and started sharing the new experience they had with their friends and colleagues when they came back. Many of them confessed that engaging with other people and projects helped in improving their social and business skills.
Income Generation & Social Impact
Marketing for the center is done using a dedicated Facebook page. Another marketing idea is to start selling products at affordable prices to attract customers since the main products are tasseled Jordanian Shammagh and embroidered Jordanian dresses which are very popular in Ajloun.
“We can produce anything here with our machines like bed covers and embroidered tissues for example”. Amal comments. Obviously, working with more clients means allowing more women with special cases and those who are raising their little kids and helping their families at the same time to make money.
Amal also adds that they are open to going anywhere with their products, as they currently provide local clothes shops with their services.
A Way to Social Cohesion
Though the center is not generating that much revenue yet, the social and moral impact is really showing among the ladies who are coming every day. “When they first started, some of the local women were just staring at the machine for like 10 minutes. They were scared of trying to use it”.
Anwar smiles and continues: “Now they know how to use the same machine either for embroidery or sewing. The fear of trying a new thing is just broken”.
In the future, Amal and her colleagues will start making more unique items such as customized laptop sleeves and personal bags that can have the person’s name on it, or create special embroidery designs tailored to each customer.
As part of their training plan is to give training courses to Syrian refugees in addition to the current local community ladies. “Training is important, but what is more important to me is to allow these housewives to get a job using the help this center is providing”. Amal explains.
It is worthy of mention that the program “Promoting Local Economic Development in Jordan” (PLEDJ) is funded by the European Delegation to Jordan managed by the Ministry of Interior and implemented by UNDP. It aims at fostering two sectors in the governorates of Ajloun and Tafileh: Small-Scale Food Processing and Tourism Services.