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Traditional Embroidery: A Bridge to Modern Life

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Published on Apr 11, 2008

After the Bedouin nomad tribes moved from tents in the desert to the city, their women lost the possibility to contribute to the family's income. But some of them found a way to use traditional embroidery to support their families and gain independence. Our Israeli team has the story.


Two decades ago, Bedouin women from the small town Lekia established an association called "Desert Embroidery" to provide them with employment. Today, the women not only make a living using their skills but also by "widening [their] horizons" through education, health and even computer study programs. The women's works are sold in Israel and abroad.

[Naama Isana, Head of "Desert Embroidery"]
"The 'Desert Embroidery' project is like an Umbrella for other projects such as women empowerment, changing women's status in the Bedouin society and educational programs. Our women have to continue to study in high school and university."

A change in the Bedouin society might take years but the women are patient.


[Naama Isana, Head of "Desert Embroidery"]
"We should take the first step and stay there for a few years to build a solid base, and then move on with the second step."


[Naama Isana, Head of "Desert Embroidery"]
"There are good and bad things in the Bedouin traditions. We want to preserve the good things."

Naama tells us that embroidery patterns can reveal changes in the society.

[Naama Isana, Head of "Desert Embroidery"]
"My grand-mother was the Sheik's daughter and the pattern she embroidered shows the Sheik in the center because he was the one deciding everything for all the tribe. Today, in 2008, the pattern shows the women in the center. We want to decide for ourselves."

Traditional embroidery was essentially used to decorate Bedouin dresses, but for these women, it is a means of employment, art and independence.

NTD Negev Desert, Israel

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